This story was first published at MurphysHockeyLaw.net
Within minutes of the news breaking that former NHL goalie Ray Emery had drowned Sunday morning in a tragic accident while swimming in Hamilton (Ontario) Harbor, the famous video of Emery (while with the Senators in February, 2007), fighting former NHL and then Buffalo Sabres goalie Martin Biron and then tough guy Andrew Peters in a line brawl went viral. Just as that was a career highlight for Emery, it was for Biron as that ended up being his last home game as a Sabre with him being traded to the Flyers a few days later. A shocked and saddened Biron took time Tuesday to recall that moment and a player and person in Emery, he grew to have the utmost respect for.
“For that reason, for the fan base here in Buffalo and for me, it was a very memorable game already, and a memorable season because that’s the year the Buffalo Sabres won the President’s Trophy,” Biron told Murphy’s Hockey Law Tuesday morning. “But yeah, it’s been played a lot over the last 24 hours for some very sad reasons. I keep saying, ‘if it wasn’t for Ray Emery, that clip and that game, would just have been one of the many fights and many brawls that happen on the ice; but because it was Ray Emery, and because I decided, – very stupidly – to fight him knowing that he would completely crush me, and then he turns around and fights Andrew Peters, that’s what made that clip memorable!”
The rivalry that was brewing between Ottawa and Buffalo didn’t hurt the chances of some rough stuff between the two clubs either.
“That was a big rivalry and the year before we had beaten the Senators in the second round on a Jason Pominville shorthanded goal in overtime and everybody in Buffalo remembers that,” he pointed out. “But it was an even bigger rivalry that season with the brawl and also with Ottawa eliminating the Sabres in the conference final to go the Final and play the Anaheim Ducks, losing to Anaheim, but still making it all the way to the Final. Ray had a big part in not only the Ottawa Senators’ history, but the Buffalo Sabres’ history and my own history here in Buffalo.”
When asked what he was thinking when he saw Emery laughing as he dropped the gloves with him, Biron said he was just hoping to get lucky like Felix Potvin did in his famous bout with tough guy goalie legend and now Flyers GM Ron Hextall. That didn’t go exactly as planned but as Biron pointed out, if not for the mercy and respect shown by Emery, things could’ve been a lot worse.
“What I thought was maybe I can be lucky,” Biron said. “Maybe I can be the one guy that gets that lucky punch in and is like Felix Potvin with Ron Hextall and evwrybosy thinks Hextall is going to beat him up and then I come out on top right? So, that did not happen! You gotta give it to Ray though, when I went down and he starts punching and punching, but he never hit me in the face. He hit me in the back of the head once, but if he were to hit me in the face, I probably never would’ve been traded to Philadelphia because I would’ve been on the injure reserve list for probably a few days or weeks because that would never have happened.
So we were down on the ground and he could’ve easily taken liberties on me because I was completely vulnerable and then he decided to hold off and then he asked me if I wanted to get back up and do it again? Then me stupidly again, I said ‘Yes let’s do it’ and by the time we got up, Andrew Peters was skating over and Ray Emery decided ‘Hey I much rather fight Andrew Peters than fight Marty!’
Biron was already well aware of Emery’s fighting background prior to that brawl and he knew that whenever he faced a team with the Hamilton native between the pipes, he was in for a battle to the finish!
“I knew he was tough because earlier in my career I played against Ray when he was with the Binghamton Senators and before that I saw highlights from juniors, so I knew he was tough and he was a competitor,” Biron said. “Whenever you got to play against Ray, you knew that you were in for a fight, and I’m not just talking about a fistfight, but the game was going to be a fight til the end! If the game was 2-2 with five minutes left, you knew that he wasn’t going to fold. You knew he was doing his best to stop everything until the end and you had to at your best self as well.”
Biron then recalled a crazy brawl Emery was part of while with the Binghamton Senators and playing the Philadelphia Phantoms in the 2003-04 season when Phantoms back-up Neil Little came off the bench to help his teammates who were trying to contain Emery.
“Little launched himself over the pile to get at Ray because Ray was pounding on the other goalie and it was just nuts,” Biron exclaimed. “His fights were crazy and well chronicled over the years so we had plenty of material to know what we were in for.”
As Biron, pointed out, the respect Emery showed him in that fight was a reflection of the person he was. Emery certainly had his troubles and a checkered past at times but he was truly a good person and fought hard to overcome his demons and the adversity he faced.
“We all know Ray had his issues on the ice, off the ice and he was a tough kid that dealt with some tough things, but I really believe that people change a little bit and try to better themselves,” Biron said. “So about a year ago, the WGIR 550 radio station here in Buffalo, they do a celebrity roast and I was going to be the roasted person last year (February, 2017), so it would be awesome if you could come in and just take your shot? It will be a funny thing and people in Buffalo are going to love it!
So, Ray felt uncomfortable coming in and being the villain. He felt uncomfortable and he said:
‘I love Buffalo; I love playing against the Sabres and i feel uncomfortable coming in and basically taking shots at you Marty; taking shots at Andrew Peters; taking shots at the Sabres and the city of Buffalo. I don’t feel comfortable doing that.’
Things like that are how Biron will remember his on ice enemy but later off-ice friend.
“I thought it was very stand up of him and very remarkable to feel that way,” Biron said. “I mean, I would’ve loved for him to come down and to tell everybody how he wanted to beat me up so badly that I would’ve been broken in 18 different pieces but Ray has dealt with and has dealt with so many things on ice and off ice, he didn’t want to be perceived as this villain and this guy that people loved to hate. So to me, that’s what I’ll remember from Ray obviously. The fact that he was a fighter and not just because he was fighting, but because he had to overcome so much adversity in his career and in his life, and the fact that he was a very stand up guy and people that he played with and all of those organizations absolutely loved him.