Grab the tissues, find a secluded place – tears are OK,
The world of sports is often dominated by testosterone-filled
antics worthy of a clip on SportsCenter. The sentimentally-flavored
stories are few and far between. However, the night of Jan. 28 when
Atlanta Thrashers right wing Dany Heatley returned to the ice for
the first time since being charged with vehicular homicide, I felt
the salty drops welling up inside.
Last September, Heatley was seriously injured and teammate Dan
Snyder killed when Heatley crashed his Ferrari into a wall. His
blood-alcohol content was a 0.015, below the legal limit of
Surgery in October, to repair his torn right knee, and months of
rehabilitation only pale in comparison to the lifelong burden he
holds. He saw his teammate, his friend, die.
His fellow Thrashers have been supportive and the Snyder family
forgiving, but he has more than hockey on his mind.
“I just think of him all the time,” Heatley told ESPN after his
first game back. “The perfect teammate. That’s what I take most
Hockey provides a way for ‘Heater,’ last season’s All-Star MVP,
to move on, to play for something larger than Dany Heatley. For
some unknown reason he is still alive and Snyder is not. As a great
friend and good teammate he can skate, shoot and score and he can
do it for Snyder.
Heatley has been given a burden. A chance not many people in the
public eye get. His return from injury is encouraging and his
remorse is heart-wrenching, but he can inspire so much more within
us. He can arouse passion in people across the country, a passion
that goes beyond a hat trick. A longing that travels inside our
sleeping hearts and awakens our very core. Life is larger than this
moment. There is something more. People live as fragile and
dependent. Death is unexpected, are you ready?
Keep an eye out for tributary 37s, Snyder’s number, and an ear
for Heatley sound bites, but keep the tissues near.