Saturday, October 5, 2013

Remembering A Terrible Tragedy

It was September 29th, 2003. Dan Snyder had found out he had made the Atlanta Thrashers opening night roster. The team was set to open up the season in four days at home against Columbus, so Snyder and his good friend Dany Heatley decided to go out and celebrate.

Snyder did not have a glorious path to the NHL like Heatley did. Snyder went undrafted and took it upon himself to prove all the teams wrong. After two seasons as a third liner with the Orlando Solar Bears in the IHL, Snyder got his chance in the big show with the Thrashers at the end of the 2000-01 season (was just two games, though).

He spent the next two seasons going up and down between the Thrashers and their AHL team, the Chicago Wolves. In just 36 games for Atlanta in 2002-03, he notched 10 goals. Not too shabby for a kid who was deemed not worthy to play in the NHL.

Snyder's tough path to the NHL made it all the sweeter for him when he finally made the opening night roster. He was finally getting the chance to play in the NHL full time. But he never got the chance.

Him and good friend Heatley went out celebrating that night, and in the midst of their celebrating tragedy struck.

Heatley was driving his Ferrari with Snyder in the passenger seat, and lost control of the car going 80 MPH in a 35 MPH zone and hit a brick pillar/iron fence. Both were not wearing seat belts and were thrown from the car. Heatley suffered a concussion, broken jaw, bruised kidney, and tore several ligaments in his knee. Snyder had to be put into a coma to have surgery to repair a skull fracture.

Six days later, Snyder went into shock and died from his injuries. He was 25 years old.

Charges went on to be filed against Heatley, including vehicular homicide. He did plead guilty and accepted a three year probation sentence, and also gave speeches involving safe driving.

Due to his injuries, Heatley did not return to the Thrashers until January of 2004. It would turn out to be his final season in Atlanta, as after the lockout of 2004-05 he asked for a trade so he could best put this tragedy behind him. His request was granted and he was moved to Ottawa in exchange for F Marian Hossa.

He has since gone on to be one of the more prolific goal scorers of the decade, while playing for Ottawa and San Jose (he didn't come to Minnesota until 2011). He had back to back 50 goal seasons in 2005-06 and 2007-07.

Heatley has not publicly talked about the incident since then. Its just something he doesn't mention.

But expect him to very well remember that this took place 10 years ago tonight, when he hits the ice against Anaheim.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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