|Heatley moves on to Stanley Cup while accident memories linger|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 27 May 2007 14:06|
Seeking a fresh start, he asked to be traded and landed with Ottawa in 2005. Now, Heatley and the Senators are in the Stanley Cup finals that begin Monday against the Anaheim Ducks.
``Mentally, it was a good change for me,'' he said Sunday. ``Ottawa has been a great place for me all around - a great hockey team to walk into and great people to be around.''
But still the memories linger.
Heatley was driving when he lost control of his black Ferrari and crashed while speeding on a residential Atlanta road on Sept. 29, 2003. The car was torn apart. Heatley broke his jaw and injured his knee. Snyder lingered in a coma for six days before dying at 25.
Heatley pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide, driving too fast for conditions, failure to maintain a lane and speeding.
Snyder's parents, Graham and LuAnn, hugged Heatley at their son's funeral. Graham Snyder and his other son both testified in court that they didn't want Heatley to go to jail or lose his hockey career.
Following the accident, a lockout shut down the NHL for the 2004-05 season. Heatley used the time to recover and reflect.
``It was good for me,'' he said. ``I had a lot of time to think about things. I always felt hockey-wise, I'd be ready to go after the lockout.''
He played in Switzerland and Russia before joining the Canadian national team for the World Cup and world championships.
Wanting to escape the gossip and memories in Atlanta, Heatley joined the Senators for the start of the 2005-06 season.
``Being a boy from western Ontario, he was accepted by the community very fast,'' Ottawa general manager John Muckler said. ``He was happy to have a new start and he's just taken off. I have more respect in him as a hockey player than I had before.''
Heatley made a mark in his first season, setting career and team highs in goals with 50 and tying captain Daniel Alfredsson in points with 103.
This season, Heatley set a team record with 105 points. The left winger became the first NHL player with back-to-back 50-goal seasons since Florida's Pavel Bure in 2000 and 2001.
``He's a real dynamic player with the puck and a real good player without the puck,'' Senators coach Bryan Murray said. ``I don't know that I would have said that every day last year. But he's certainly become that.''
Off the ice, Heatley's life is a bit different from his teammates.
He was sentenced to three years of probation, which is ongoing. He cannot drive except for work and medical purposes or for going to the grocery store or to the 150 speeches he's required to give.
``I'm on pace,'' he said. ``I'll probably finish them up by the end of summer.''
Heatley talks to young people about the dangers of speeding.
``Maybe you can help somebody along the way or help them make the right decision along the way,'' he said.
While Heatley continues remaking his life, the Snyders remain attached to the past.
They visited all 30 NHL arenas this season. Not to harp on the accident, but to remind fans of their son. They started a foundation in his name that provides college scholarships.
``We talk,'' Heatley said. ``Not a lot, but we talk regularly.''
But Heatley shuts down when asked about carrying Dan Snyder's spirit with him.
``That's something that I've kept close to me since it happened and something I'm not going to talk about,'' he said.
Heatley and the Snyders will reunite in July for the fourth annual Dan Snyder Memorial golf tournament in Elmira, N.Y. Heatley has attended each year.
How much would he enjoy bringing the Stanley Cup with him this summer?
``I don't want to jinx it,'' he said. ``It's always fun to go there, it's a great day.''