by SENShobo on 11/20/08 at 01:57 PM ET
From the Globe and Mail, a detailed look over Dany Heatley’s successes and challenges,
They may never call him “Captain Canada” — but they will certainly call on him.
Come the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010, Dany Heatley is as good a bet as any to be the hero who helps Canada regain the treasured gold medal in men’s hockey — an incredible journey for a young man who, only five years ago, was at the centre of a tragic accident that cost a close friend his life and might have cost Heatley his career.
That sad shadow — some based on fact, some on innuendo and some on falsehood — has largely lifted, and though the Ottawa Senators’ forward remains media shy and reluctant to talk about any of it, his postaccident accomplishments have come to speak for themselves.
It is still a shock to me how poorly some treat him.
I have time and time again run into fans (sadly they are commonly Toronto fans continuing this disturbing trend) who will call Heatley a dirty, disgusting player, and many other things that I choose not to remember or repeat. I can understand calling Alfie dirty for memorable and questionable (if rare) incidents, such as against the Leafs’ Tucker and the Ducks’ Niedermayer.
But Heatley? Here is Canada’s leading scorer in world play, a player who has averaged nearly a goal every other game (231) and better than a point per game (489) in his 443 NHL games with the Thrashers and Senators, not to mention how some parents must love him for taking the college scholarship route, showing future NHLers that you can succeed without sacrificing your education. He even donated the truck he won as All-Star game MVP (youngest player to score four goals there) in 2003 to a friend, and left his MVP trophy behind.
“He is only going to good things for our league,” fellow all-star Jeremy Roenick marvelled on national television. “He’s a better person than he is hockey player.”
The one, only, and glaring tarnish on the man is his well publicized and all-too-often oh-so-poorly fact-checked crash in September of 2003, now just over five years ago. That incident destroyed his Ferrari, with purported images of the wreck circling the internet, but infinitely more devastating was the loss of teammate and friend Dan Snyder that tragic night, no memory does he have of the incident.
Blood alcohol was suggested as a factor,
but tests showed Heatley had a negligible blood-alcohol level of less than .015 per cent, not even remotely near the state legal limit of .08 per cent.
Experts hired by both defence and prosecution determined the speed was more in the order of 57, 58 mph — still over the limit, but far from what had been reported. Crash experts suggested the tire marks indicated another vehicle, or perhaps an animal, had contributed to the crash.
But Heatley wanted nothing to do with a trial that would require everyone going through it all again. He was also anxious to avoid any lawsuit that might arise and came to an understanding with the Snyder family that it was best for all to move on.
In many ways, Heatley was fortunate that Snyder came from such a family. Graham Snyder even stood in court and asked for clemency. “We forgive,” he said, “because Dany has shown remorse to our family.”
To this day, Heatley appears with Dan Snyder’s parents at charity golf tournaments to support a new hockey rink in Dan Snyder’s name. Whether in a court of law or a family’s home, taking responsibility for one’s actions and forgiveness rank higher than virtually anything else.
“Did the league find someone transcendent,” one U.S. publication asked, “someone who can break out of a provincial pocket and make all of North America notice, as Gretzky and Lemieux did?”
That was asked, of course, before the incident, and Heatley has become more reserved. It seems shocking to me that despite taking responsibility, being forgiven by Snyder’s family, and continuing to set a great example as an NHL player, certain fans can’t forgive him or won’t let him forget. Parents will coddle their children, friends vow to help each other through their struggles, even in cases as tragic or worse than this, and yet somehow, Dany Heatley seems to be outside the realm of human caring, empathy, and emotion. Darren McCarty in Detroit battled against alcohol troubles, and upon beating back his demons and returning to the NHL the fans welcomed him back with open arms in light of his personal struggle.
On the ice, players seem to transcend what is possible, and through the camera’s lens onto over a million televisions they appear larger than life. But they are the same as you or I, people doing what they love, people who can make mistakes and be hurt, and who can return from facing adversity to be stronger than they were before. It’s time for fans to start admiring and respecting these struggles, and championing these successes, for they remain the essence of the human struggle, and in overcoming them, learning from them, but never forgetting them, the pinnacle achievement of what it is to be part of humanity.
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