Concern for 'the kid'

EARL MCRAE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:30 PM ET

"The kid sounds unhappy, the kid sounds troubled."

-- George Chuvalo

There was no more committed, disciplined athlete than George Chuvalo, Canada's greatest fighter, and I phoned him to ask if he feels insulted and disrespected that Ottawa Senators goalie Ray Emery, whose behaviour is anything but committed and disciplined, chose to display his fistic image on his helmet before relegating it to backup helmet and replacing it with one showing Muhammad Ali.

"No, not really," said Chuvalo whose life now is dedicated to travelling the country counselling against drug abuse through his George Chuvalo's Fight Against Drugs program.

Chuvalo lost three of his five children to drug overdoses, and his wife Lynne, devastated over their deaths, to suicide.

"My concern is for the kid. He's a big boxing fan and I was thrilled when he put me on his helmet during the playoffs and Stanley Cup last year. He said I was his boxing hero. When his agent said he'd like to talk to me, and I got his number, I phoned him a few months back, but he never returned my message."

I told Chuvalo of the problems Emery is causing: Showing up late for practices, the sleeping-in excuses, slacking it in practices, forfeiting optional skates he couldn't afford not to be at, the missed team flights, the traffic mishaps, the stick-and-bottle-throwing temper tantrum, his professed lack of motivation.

"There's a pattern there," said Chuvalo. "This isn't just one or two isolated incidents. This is irrational behaviour. He's not happy. I have no idea what it is, or why.

"Here's a kid making all that money and playing for one of the best teams in hockey in the best league in the world. And he said he has motivational problems? There's something wrong. He should be on top of the world in his attitude.

"If he's not the No. 1 goalie now, he shouldn't be sulking about it, he should be working hard as hell every day to get back to where he was, to do whatever that takes. Every team, whether it's a goalie in hockey or a quarterback in football, has a backup and they aren't going around doing all these irrational things Ray is.

NOT PAID TO SULK

"If you are a professional athlete, you have to be disciplined enough to be the best you can be. You don't sleep in, you don't dog it, you don't show up late for training for a fight, or the fight itself, and in his case, practices and team flights. By signing that contract, he made a commitment to the team and the fans. He has a responsibility to the fans, his teammates, and most of all, to himself. He's not being paid all that money to sulk and not care.

"There are guys who'd go crazy to have the chance to earn what he is and to play at that level. By doing what he's doing, he's not garnering any sympathy. Buckle up, bear down, suck it up. If you don't want it bad enough, then you're in the wrong business. Quit and take up knitting.

"It's the consistency of this behaviour that worries me, he's lost interest. I feel for him because he's not expressing his full potential to be happy."

Chuvalo says Senators management needs to play hardball with Emery, it needs to find out from him exactly what's causing his unprofessionalism.

"Like I said, it sounds to me that he's a very troubled young man. There's something amiss. You know, I met him on a plane years ago. I sat beside him. I didn't know it was Ray Emery until years later when I was told he'd mentioned to his agent that he once talked to me on a plane. I remember him as a very polite, very well-spoken kid."

WINNING ATTITUDE

George Chuvalo, who knows extreme discipline, dedication, and winning attitude in sports and life beyond, says he'd be willing to meet with Ray Emery to talk.

"If I can be of any help, sure, I'd be okay with that."

Ray Emery would be foolish to turn down the opportunity.

Even if he doesn't have the Canadian champ on his helmet anymore.


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