It was the summer of 2011 and Ray Emery was at a crossroads in his career.
The goaltender had worked his way back from a devastating hip injury that threatened his livelihood and was fresh off helping the Ducks reach the playoffs with a late-season surge after their starter was injured. But he was without a contract with few suitors when Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman came calling in need of a backup for Corey Crawford.
"I had a discussion with him that summer and I asked him what he was looking to do," Bowman said.
As Bowman recalled, Emery wanted to get his career back on track. He believed he had played well for the Ducks and maybe surprised some people. He wanted an opportunity to prove himself.
"We were just trying to figure out the right guy because we didn't want to put Corey into a position where he had to play 70 games," Bowman added. "We needed a backup we thought could come in and play a fair amount."
Emery had what the other goalie on the Hawks' roster at the time, Alexander Salak, did not: Experience. With 173 career games behind him after playing for the Senators, Flyers and Ducks, Emery had 171 more NHL appearances than the unproven Salak. Emery was invited to training camp before the 2011-12 season on a tryout basis to challenge Salak.
Both Emery and Salak appeared in three exhibitions. Emery went 0-2-0 with an .813 save percentage and 4.58 goals-against average while Salak was 0-1-1 with a .929 save percentage and 1.94 goals-against. Despite the disparity in the numbers, Emery was signed to a one-year contract and Salak was reassigned to Rockford of the AHL.
"I appreciated the chance they gave me," Emery, 30, said. "That camp wasn't my best camp. I think they wanted an experienced guy and I made it kind of because of that."
Emery a perfect fit
Chicago Tribune | Feb 25