The obviousquestion for Ottawa Senators goaltender Ray Emery: Does cockroach taste likechicken? ¬∂ Of course now that the Senators are in the Stanley Cup finals forthe first time in modern franchise history--Emery allowed 10 goals in fiveEastern Conference finals games and made 27 saves to close out the BuffaloSabres 3--2 in overtime last Saturday--the goalie told SI he will entertainquestions about hockey only, which means inquiring minds will not get anygustatory insights about the snack he consumed a year and a half ago on a dare.(Emery won $500 from captain Daniel Alfredsson for eating a cockroach that hadscurried into their dressing room at Carolina.)
This is an article from the May 28, 2007 issue
Emery took thewinnings from his six-legged hors d'oeuvre and turned them into a tattoo,inviting some ink-stained kvetches from the Ottawa media to watch as anger is agift was added to his already ink-stained right arm. But apparently this is notthe time for him to deconstruct his tattoos. Nor, presumably, will he talkabout:
•THE THREE-FOOTpython his parents gave him as a gift last Christmas.
•HIS CLOSET FULLof eye-catching suits, which include a silvery-gray pinstriped number hetrotted out for the clincher against the Sabres and a dark one with thick whitestripes that Senators defenseman Wade Redden calls the Jailbird. "I likethat baby-blue one with the stripe of fabric down the back, [which looks] likesomething you might have worn to the prom," says Ottawa center JasonSpezza.
•THE LIKENESS OFMike Tyson he had painted on his mask for a short time last season beforeabandoning the look.
•HIS ROLE IN abrawl against the Sabres in February, when the 6'2", 203-pound netmindertook on--and held his own against--6'4", 240-pound enforcer AndrewPeters.
•THE 101 OTHERTHINGS that make the man his teammates call Razor the NHL's conspicuouslycoolest player.
Emery oozes style.More important, he has game. "If he played somewhere in the States, itwould really bring [him] recognition," Spezza says. "He's a flamboyantguy, but also a really intelligent guy. That's why he can handle all thedistractions that he creates for himself."
In a sport inwhich personalities are usually tamped down by peer pressure and the crushingweight of hockey culture--"Generally we do want them to conform ... [but]Ray pushes to the outside," Ottawa coach Bryan Murray says--Emery doesn'tso much march to the beat of his own drummer as waltz to a different orchestra.But because the goalie wants the focus of this story to be hockey, you shouldknow that Emery, in his second full NHL season, has become better at movinglaterally and positioning himself and is more judicious in what he calls"save selection," the technique he uses to stop shots. He largelycredits a personal coach, Eli Wilson, for his improvement, a situation thatcould be delicate because the Senators already have a respected goalie coach,Ron Low. Emery says Low addresses macro goaltending questions such as shooters'tendencies while Wilson, who started working with Emery last summer, focuses onthe micro issues. (Team brass refer to Wilson merely as Emery's"friend.") "Ray's done a good job for us," general manager JohnMuckler said last Thursday. "He's come a long way. Has he arrived? Probablynot. We feel he can get even better. He's playing on a good team, and the teamhas helped him tremendously."
Emery has alsohelped Ottawa. Stopping the puck has been a perennial concern for thefranchise, as has the team's postseason swoons. (Given the way the gifted butfragile Senators used to curl up in the playoffs, their annual highlight filmscould have been called Fetal Attraction.) But Emery, 24, seems inured topressure. As he seized the No. 1 job from free-agent signee Martin Gerber inNovember and became a central figure in the dressing room, the mood lightened."It's been fun for guys to see how relaxed he can be and then how focusedhe is when the puck drops," says defenseman Chris Phillips. "You sayguys can't just flip a switch, but he's able to."
The only switchEmery can't seem to find is the alarm button on his bedside clock. On May 4 hewent home for 40 winks between practice and an afternoon flight to New Jerseyfor Game 5 of the second-round series. He instead caught 50 winks. When Emerydidn't show at the airport, Spezza phoned his girlfriend, Jennifer, and toldher to go to Emery's condo to wake him up. The deep sleeper quickly hopped intohis white Hummer--and then hit another car on Highway 417 en route to theairport. The minor accident cost him an $85 ticket for an illegal lane changeas well as the price of a commercial flight to Newark and probably a fine,although everyone is coy on that subject.
For an old schoolhockey guy, Murray is a pragmatist--"The only thing I ever worried aboutRay was, Could he stop a puck?" the coach says--but he admits to beingupset that Emery missed the flight. "He can afford a nice Hummer,"muses the 64-year-old Murray, coaching in his first final, "but he couldn'tafford a nice alarm clock. And set it." Emery made 27 saves to eliminateNew Jersey the next night. Since the fender bender Emery has stopped 140 of 152shots and allowed just one soft goal.
"Razor'slivin' it," Spezza says. "You're not young forever, so you might aswell have fun now." Emery and the Senators are playing for the Cup, andthat's no accident.