In a tremendous long-form article for The Athletic, writer Dan Robson profiles the life and times of former NHL goaltender and Stanley Cup champion Ray Emery.
Emery, of course, tragically passed away this past summer while out swimming with friends in his native Hamilton, Ontario. Emery reportedly dove under the water and never emerged. His friends tried frantically to locate him, but it wasn’t until the next morning that Ontario police recovered his body. He was just 35 years old.
Robson’s article is full of incredible, heart breaking and heart warming moments. To read the full article, click the link below:
For selected quotes, read below:
On the night of the drowning:
A full-moon night had become dawn and soft light fell across the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club on Hamilton Harbour, a bay off the western end of Lake Ontario. The surface was still, but the water beneath was murky, tinged by the nearby steel mills.
Emery had stripped off his clothes – a leather-trimmed, zip-up sweatshirt and a palm-tree print tank-top – down to his boxers. His frame revealed tattoos across his body. “PSAN,” the first initials of his four family members down the side of his torso. “Anger is a gift,” a personal mantra, on one arm. And, on both sides of his chest, images of phoenixes rising.
He slipped off his Stanley Cup ring, engraved with the Chicago Blackhawks logo, and placed it next to his Louis Vuitton wallet on a table at the stern of the boat where he’d spent the early hours laughing and drinking with friends.
The challenge was nothing new. Emery boasted of his swimming abilities many times. A family video showed him crossing six lengths of a backyard pool underwater on a single breath. He regularly pushed himself to faraway targets at the cottages he rented – including once recently, when he came up short, gasping for air.
For Emery, every marked failure was a step on the course to victory. As with the challenges he’d faced before, he bet he’d find his way through this one.
The other dock was at least 100 feet away. He told a friend wading in the water to move to the left, marking the spot where he’d angle his path beneath the surface.
“I’m coming for you,” he said.
On a full day without sleep, after playing his first hockey game in more than a year and a night out that hit the morning, he took a breath and dove out.
Emery drowned on July 15, 2018, at 35-years-old. The mysterious tragedy capped a fractured narrative, one that followed him throughout his life.
On Emery’s life after retirement and the difficulties he had adjusting to “normal” life:
But Emery struggled to adjust to life after retiring. He grappled with who he was without the game, just as he had while he was in it. He feared growing old and made choices that concerned his family and friends. And, once again, his lowest moments made headlines.
His relationship difficulties towards the end of his life:
In June, 2017, Emery’s seven-year relationship with Chanté ended when she called off their wedding. Emery was devastated. It was a difficult, fiery breakup. Things got worse that fall when photos alleging to show Emery using cocaine in a hotel room were posted on a gossip website.
Then, in October, Chanté sought a restraining order against Emery, based on what she described as a series of frightening incidents and a threatening message he left her while inebriated.
“It was very scary,” Chanté says. “I did what I needed to do to protect myself. The goal was never for Ray to get charged, for Ray to have a record, or for Ray to never be able to work again. I was very clear – I just wanted a restraining order.”
Hamilton police believed the evidence she provided was grounds to charge Emery with assault with a weapon and uttering threats. He spent a night in jail. The charges were later dismissed when he completed mandated anger management counselling, at Chanté’s request.
Again, on the tragic night that took Emery’s life:
“It was just a chill night,” Nicholson says, insisting that he and Emery only had two beers on the water.
As dawn approached, Nicholson says Emery made a bet that he could swim underwater to a dock at least 100 feet away. This was Emery pushing the limits and seeking thrills, like old times.
Nicholson told Emery he didn’t need to swim to the other dock, but he insisted. He was having a good time and put Nicholson in a playful headlock. “You’re my boy! You’re going in!” Nicholson remembers him saying. At the time, the owner of the boat had walked away to do something near the gate of the marina, Nicholson says. (The man has not commented on what happened that night, aside from speaking with police.)
The sun wasn’t up yet, but the sky was getting light. They could see across the marina. They both stripped down to their boxers. Nicholson jumped in first, and Emery told him where to tread water, so he could dive into the path he planned to take to the other side.
Emery stood on the edge, readying himself. “I’m coming for you,” he said.
He took a breath and dove in.
Nicholson swam back to the dock, next to the boat. He climbed out and sat on the edge, facing the slip that he thought Emery swam to. It seemed to be taking a while, but Nicholson didn’t think anything of it until the owner of the boat walked back up and asked where Emery was.
They watched for a few more moments, but Emery never emerged. They panicked.
“Ray!” Nicholson yelled. “Ray?”
The water was calm.
Chilling. RIP Ray Emery.