I was a little shocked when I heard that Ray Emery was given a tryout contract for the upcoming Chicago Blackhawks training camp – I thought they’d locked up their net tandem when they’d signed Alex Salak to a two-year contract. But after reading an article Adam Jahns wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times, I see what Stan Bowman did, and I approve.
This all began when Ray was diagnosed with avascular necrosis in his hip back in early 2010 – it’s the same thing that ended Bo Jackson’s football/baseball career. He was willing to play till he couldn’t anymore, but he was warned that if he did that, he basically wouldn’t be able to walk. He had surgery that involved taking a portion of his fibula (calf bone) and grafting it onto his damaged hip bone. He spent months with different rehab treatments to strengthen both his hip and the leg where he’d lost part of his bone. He knew he’d be traded from the Philadelphia Flyers, so he wanted to be in playing shape for the next team who signed him. That turned out to be the Anaheim Ducks, and it turned out that they did need him.
When Jonas Hiller was sidelined with vertigo, their backup goalie took over, but he couldn’t cut it. The Ducks called Ray up from the AHL and put him in net, and with his efforts not only did the Ducks make it to the playoffs (eventually falling to the Predators) but he was nominated for the Masterson Trophy because of his comeback. He just found out in the spring that his hip is now healed and he’s good to go.
Ray knows this is a do-or-die situation: if he makes it, he gets the backup spot behind Corey Crawford; if not, his future is up in the air. He’ll fight for his chance in net with everything he has, and based on his comeback, he’s got a lot of fight in him. The Blackhawks are looking for the same skills that Corey has and see that potential in Salak, but they need the experience behind Corey that Ray has and Marty Turco provided this past season. They have till October 1 to decide if they’ll keep him, and I can’t wait to see this battle for the backup slot.