Ray Emery: A true Philadelphia hero for our time

Ray Emery: A true Philadelphia hero for our time

On Friday night, things were looking pretty ugly for the Flyers, and for our city too.

The Flyers were down 7-0 to the Washington Capitals, in front of a hostile Wells Fargo Center crowd. In the third period, things looked pretty hopeless.

At that point, some teams would have rolled over and died. Some teams would have given up the fight. Some goalies would have stood idly by and let their team get its butt kicked. But not Ray Emery.

The Flyers goalie skated the length of the ice and challenged Caps goalie Braden Holtby. Holtby wanted no part of it -- can you blame him? -- but Emery won the fight decisively (video here). The brawl had the positive effect of sending the crowd home happy despite a 7-0 loss.

Some complained. Some called it "classless" or "bush league," the way they always have, for the last 40 years, whenever the Flyers have showed any kind of on-ice toughness. Even the commissioner of the NHL reacted to the fight by vowing to change the rules to prevent it from happening again! if something you did causes the commissioner of your sport to take action to prevent it, that's a sign that you're doing something right.

Are the Flyers supposed to change the way they play the game because Pat Sajak doesn't approve?

And guess what: it worked. Emery, it's clear, provided the local teams with a spark that they desperately needed- because since that game ended, every Philadelphia professional sports team is undefeated.

The Flyers won their next game, 1-0 against the Devils on Saturday. The Sixers -- a team that's not even supposed to be trying to win -- started the year 3-0, including wins over the Bulls and Heat. And the Eagles, behind a record-tying performance from Superstar Nick Foles, notched a dominant road victory over the Raiders on Sunday. When the baseball free agent signing period starts Tuesday, I expect the Phillies to immediately sign Robinson Cano, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Garza.

So thank you Ray Emery. You're our spark plug. Our inspiration. Our hero.

Other Philly sports takes:

- You know I don't like to gloat. But I was clearly right, all along, about Nick Foles. Did Donovan McNabb ever throw seven touchdowns in a game? I rest my case.

- A lot to be happy about in that big Eagles win Sunday, but best of all, how about that Riley Cooper? It's hard to disagree with what Nick Foles told Peter King after the game: "I am so proud of Riley Cooper. So happy for him. After what he's been through, and how hard he's worked, this is great." With the adversity that Cooper has overcome, he's clearly frontrunner for both Comeback Player of the Year and the Ed Block Courage Award.

- Most importantly, the Eagles sent a clear message. To Marcus Vick. They sure showed him.

- I knew the Sixers would start winning as soon as Andrew Bynum was healthy.

- Philadelphia athlete/sometime convict power rankings: 1. Dykstra 2. Pete Rose 3. El Wingador 4. Michael Vick 5. Ugueth Urbina 592. Freddie Mitchell.

- Speaking of which, I've got a feeling that when it's the 20th anniversary of the 2008 Phillies team, Shane Victorino and Brad Lidge won't be getting into near-fistfights at the Granite Run Mall.
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The Sixers are for real (and Sam Hinkie had nothing to do with it)

The Sixers are for real (and Sam Hinkie had nothing to do with it)

The biggest sports story in town in the Sixers, winners of 4 of 5 and an exhilarating team on the floor, led by a superstar player who seems to actually get us as a fan base. And to think, all it took to bring us to this point was getting rid of Sam Hinkie.

Look at what a dark place the Sixers were in a year ago. They were in last place, with the league’s worst roster and no hope for the future except for a bunch of ill-defined future draft picks. And they were led by a general manager with absolutely zero interest in winning, explaining himself, or (worst of all) appearing on the WIP Morning Show. 

But now, there’s hope. Joel Embiid is the real deal. The supporting cast is rapidly improving, with guys like T.J. McConnell, Robert Covington and Dario Saric looking like valuable supporting players, and Ben Simmons joining them very soon. 

I know the Hinkie apologists are going to say these improvements are because of him and that he deserves credit -- please. To credit Hinkie with drafting Joel Embiid is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of in all my years of watching Philadelphia sports. We all know Hinkie wanted Andrew Wiggins -- therefore, he gets no credit for drafting Embiid. And as Bob Brookover pointed out last week, Embiid is a Sixer because of luck.  

Ben Simmons, of course, was drafted by Bryan Colangelo, who also acquired the best Sixer since Thaddeus Young, Ersan Ilyasova. And if the two first-round picks next year turn out to be stars, Colangelo will get credit for those, too

Hinkie did things like draft three centers in a  row, take Jahlil Okafor over Kristaps Porzingis, trade valuable players like Michael Carter-Williams and K.J. McDaniels for nothing, and sign no veterans at all for three years. 

Joel Embiid is a winner, Sam Hinkie is a loser, and that’s all there is to it.  

In other Sixers news, it was nice to see Simmons warming up on the court last week against Boston- when Embiid did that, it meant he was 16-18 months away from returning to action. In the last two years, the Sixers lead the league in pre-game social media posts featuring players who aren’t active for that night’s game. 

And speaking of records, congrats to Nerlens Noel for breaking Shane Victorino’s longstanding local athlete record for use of “you know” in a single interview, when he talked to Woj last week

Other Philly sports takes: 

The Cowboys’ loss to the Packers on Sunday proves two things: Dak Prescott is a fraud, and the Cowboys were never very good anyway. The only reason they went 13-3 was the easy schedule. 

Can you believe Allen Iverson getting photographed in a Cowboys jersey? Doesn’t he know the rules? If you play in Philly, you must root for every one of the city’s teams, regardless of circumstance, for the rest of your life. 

Even so, shame on the Knicks’ Derrick Rose for no-showing a game. If you want to be a legendary NBA guard, you’re supposed to skip PRACTICES, not games. Not a game. 

Angelo made a good point: Embiid is so perfect as a Philadelphia athlete that it makes me notice how much Carson Wentz isn’t. Hunting trips? Shotgun gifts? Getting locked in a gas station bathroom? That’s just not cutting it. Carson, immediately, needs to start drinking Shirley Temples, imitating pro wrestler entrances, and insulting porn stars on Instagram, or else I fear he won’t last in this town. 

Another good column by Marcus Hayes -- the Eagles must sacrifice multiple draft picks to trade up for wide receiver Mike Williams. Whatever it takes. 

Come on Eagles- no room on the staff for either of Buddy’s sons? How about both? 

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Penn State men's hockey ranked No. 1 for first time in program history

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AP Images

Penn State men's hockey ranked No. 1 for first time in program history

At 16-2-1, Penn State's men's hockey team is ranked first in the nation for the first time in program history.

The Nittany Lions have improved each of the last four years under head coach Guy Gadowsky. 

Their record by year:

      2013-14: 8-26-2
      2014-15: 18-15-4
Last season: 21-13-4
This season: 16-2-1

Penn State received 30 of 50 first-place votes in the USCHO Division I poll. Denver is ranked No. 2, followed by Boston University, Minnesota-Duluth and Massachusetts-Lowell (see USCHO poll).

Penn State was ranked fourth last week before sweeping Michigan State.