Unraveling the Legacy of Ray Emery

On the morning of Sunday, July 15, former Flyers’ goaltender Ray Emery went on a swimming trip to Lake Ontario with friends and drowned, his life tragically cut short at the age of 35.

Emery spent two stints with the Flyers: first in 2009, then two seasons from 2013-2015. In those few years, the goalie known as “Razor” endeared himself to Philly fans and players alike with his intense, take-no-prisoners competitiveness on the ice. One need only glance through some of the condolences offered by his former teammates to grasp the kind of impact he had on them.

However, it’s also well-known that Emery had more than his share of issues away from the bright lights of the arena. His quick temper manifested itself in physical altercations with team members and trainers, and a road rage incident in which he allegedly ran an elderly man off the road and threatened to kill him. Most troubling of all, he was accused in late 2017 of assault with a weapon by then-fiancee Keshia Chante. The case does not appear to have been resolved at the time of Emery’s death.

How do we honor someone who committed such regrettable acts in life? Should we? It feels wrong to speak poorly of a human being who is now gone forever, yet dismissing Emery’s shortcomings seems to downplay the pain and anguish he brought upon some people. To be flawed is to be human, but at what point do the flaws begin to taint a person’s legacy? These are age-old questions, ones that have no easy answers.

As sports fans, we are all to some extent in the business of idolization. We fall in love with these athletes for their charming interviews, charity work, and exploits on the ice or field or court, despite the fact that we know so little about them. Because how can we not, when Claude Giroux is a thrill to watch, Nolan Patrick is too damn adorable, and Ray Emery did things like this?

We can’t truly know them, and we love them nonetheless. With Emery, the result is an impossible task: reconciling the “beautiful person” that friends, fans, and family recall him as, and the actions that speak to his less beautiful side.

This is not meant to pass judgment on Emery, nor is it an attempt to instruct you (the reader) how you should choose to remember him. It’s simply an acknowledgement of how difficult it is for us to unravel a legacy when speaking of a person who has passed. At the end of the day, the fact is that a hockey player has died at far too young an age, and the many people who loved him and are affected by the loss should be in our thoughts and prayers.