When Ray Emery arrived at Blackhawks training camp before the 2011-12 season, he didn’t have a contract, let alone a roster spot. Just a lot of confidence his career wasn’t over.
Two years later, he left as a Stanley Cup champion.
Emery, who spent 11 seasons in the NHL and rejuvenated his career during two memorable seasons serving as Corey Crawford’s backup, drowned Sunday in a swimming accident in his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario. He was 35.
On Monday, police said the drowning does not appear suspicious.
He jumped off a boat near the Leander Boat Club to go swimming, and friends called emergency services at about 6 a.m. when he didn't resurface, police said. Inspector Marty Schulenberg called it a "case of misadventure."
Emery's body was found at about 2:50 p.m. Sunday, about 20 yards from where he went into the water, Schulenberg added. He said first responders were not able to locate Emery right away so they called the dive unit. The search took longer than anticipated because of concerns for the dive team.
"It's a lengthy process and safety is paramount to our divers," he said. "We need to take the time do it safely and that's what the delay was."
A post-mortem was to be completed Monday.
"Mr. Emery was taking a swim this morning and the circumstances around that are a part of the investigation," Schulenberg said. "Those details remain to be uncovered by our investigators."
As word of Emery’s death spread, former Blackhawks teammates, coaches and others in the hockey community shared their memories of a player nicknamed “Razor” for his aggressive style.
“Lost my golfing buddy and best friend today,” former Hawk Dave Bolland tweeted. “Uncle Ray Ray touched a lot of hearts and people. Love and miss ya.”
“I will always remember Ray as a good person first & foremost,” friend and former teammate Dan Carcillo wrote on Twitter. “I envied his demeanor. He had a contagious personality. People were drawn to him. ... I will never forget his selflessness. Man this hurts. Rest easy Uncle Ray Ray.”
The Blackhawks also released a statement: “The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.”
Former teammates lauded Emery’s mentorship and leadership, especially in his final professional season in the AHL in 2015-16. Enforcer-turned-analyst Paul Bissonnette, a teammate with the AHL's Ontario Reign, said Emery would treat other players to dinner almost every night.
“I’d heard nothing but great things before meeting him, and it was true,” Bissonnette said. “He was awesome. Great in the locker room and just made life enjoyable.”
Emery’s career began with the Senators, but off-ice problems, including an incident of road rage, assault of a trainer in Russia and behavior that led to him being sent home from Senators training camp, threatened to end it prematurely. He also suffered from avascular necrosis, the same hip ailment that ended Bo Jackson’s career.
Associated Press contributed.
“Ray had many highs and lows in his personal life and his career,” longtime agent J.P. Barry said. “He never let things that would derail most of us stop his forward momentum. He had a big heart and a fun-loving personality. He was someone we all rooted for to succeed.”
Emery won the job backing up Crawford in 2011, but it was based on faith as much as his play.
“His training camp was just OK, I’m not going to try to B.S. you,” Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman told the Tribune’s David Haugh in 2011. “But I remember Ray saying, ‘I know I can be better than this, I’m just a slow starter.’ We just felt a comfort level with his experience and he’d be a good complement to Corey.”
Emery went 32-10-4 during his two seasons with the Hawks, including 17-1 with a 1.94 goals-against-average during the lockout-shortened 2013 season. He and Crawford combined to win the William Jennings Trophy for allowing the league’s fewest goals that year, and Emery finished seventh in Vezina Trophy voting, one spot ahead of Crawford.
In addition to the Senators and Blackhawks, Emery played for the Flyers and Ducks during a career that spanned 2003-15. He played in 326 NHL regular-season and playoff games, helping the Senators to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final. He went 145-86-28 with a 2.70 goals-against average and 16 shutouts during his career.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.