July 15, 2008
Rumors of former Ottawa Senators goalie Ray Emery having some sort of drug problem have been kicked around the city like an old bottle of Sleemans for the last year. They've been fueled by his propensity for partying, his lackluster season following the team's Stanley Cup finals appearance and his occasional odd behavior -- like being late to Senators team practice by driving to the wrong rink on Long Island.
Those rumors may have contributed to the poisonous reputation that kept so many NHL teams away from Emery after the Senators decided to buy him out. The goalie's last, best option was Atlant Mytishchi of the Russian KHL, where he signed this month.
Michael Landsberg landed an exit interview with Emery on TSN's Off the Record last night, and much of the conversation covered the big "what went wrong?" issues with Ottawa. But near the end of the chat, the conversation turned to his partying and alleged drug habit. Give Landsberg a ton of credit for asking these point-blank questions; here's a quick transcript:
Q. I think it's important that I ask you this, because it's the thing that's always spoken in Ottawa but almost never asked on camera. And that is the question of, "Do you have a drug problem?"
No, I don't have a drug problem.
Q. But you hear that all the time, right?
Yeah, I've heard that.
Q. Where do you think it comes from?
People like to talk. People see you out. If you're seen with anyone who's seen as being like that, it snowballs. (Ed Note: Quite a choice of words there, Ray.)
Q. Do you find that kind of talk hurtful and damaging, and maybe damaging to the point where people held back offers because of it?
Yeah ... people can think what they want. I'm not one who really looks into that. I don't read newspapers, I don't go on blogs and all that stuff. But it definitely can be hurtful to a career or a family or anything.
Q. Is partying a problem for you? And when I say "a problem," I'm putting this in a positive sense: You like to have fun, you like to bring your friends in and have fun, you like to throw big parties. But playing professional sports requires a tremendous amount of discipline. Do you think you partied too much?
No. (Laughs.) I like to go out and I like to have fun, but I wouldn't be out before a game. I wouldn't jeopardize things like that. In my eyes, no, but it's been brought to my attention before.
Q. Did the Ottawa Senators, did [GM] Bryan Murray bring those two questions -- the issue of partying and the issue of drugs -- to you and ask you straight up if there's a problem here?
Q. When did he do that? Was it at the same time you were asking for a trade?
No. There was a couple times. But I don't really want to get into that right now.
Q. And you told him that there's not a problem?
The second half of the interview can be found on TSN's video player, and it's worth a look to get a sense of Emery's body language when answering these questions.
Emery was asked earlier in the piece about a quote from his agent, who said the goalie had made changes in his life that should have made him a more viable commodity on the open market.
"I just kind of got away from things. I got myself in shape. I just started to rethink the ways I went about things. I'm not going to go into detail, but I want to say I made myself a better person and a better athlete, whatever, family member," said Emery.
Going from a starting goaltender in a Stanley Cup final to a keeper in an upstart Russian League is fall from grace few have experienced in the NHL; especially for a player as young as Emery. Drugs, no drugs, whatever: Hopefully the last few months have indeed been the wake-up call the guy needs.
Because Emery is a character, and the NHL can always use more characters. Check out the random "next question" segment that aired on Off the Record (and ignore the failure of the YouTuber to sync up the video and audio ... just listen up).