UP FRONT

Hockey

When a game loses to tragedy

CHARLIE GILLIS October 20 2003
UP FRONT

Hockey

When a game loses to tragedy

CHARLIE GILLIS October 20 2003

Hockey

UP FRONT

When a game loses to tragedy

“An emotional wreck” is how Atlanta lawyer Ed Garland described his client Dany Heatley last week—and the W-word seemed sadly apt. By then, images of Heatley’s smashedup Ferrari were appearing hourly on TV, along with news that his NHL teammate, Dan Snyder, had died from head injuries suffered in the crash. As grief-stricken members of the Atlanta Thrashers headed for Snyder’s funeral in Elmira, Ont., Friday, coach Bob Hartley voiced what many seemed to think. Suddenly, he said, winning hockey games wasn’t so important.

Crashes have killed other players, of course.

Tim Horton, Pelle Lindbergh,

Steve Chiasson and Valeri Kharlamov. But the fallout from this one promises to last, in part because of the people involved:

Snyder, 25, was your classic grin-

der who had finally clawed his way to an NHL team; Heatley was the blossoming superstar, a 22-year-old from Calgary who many felt had the stuff to make hockey watchable in the U.S. South. He was speeding around a curve at 130 km/h when the car went off the road and into a fence. Heatley suffered a broken jaw and tom knee ligaments. Alcohol wasn’t a factor, but he was still charged with vehicular homicide, punishable by three to 15 years in prison.

Headey won the support of his teammates and also the Snyder family who said they did not want to see him punished. After a break-

through 41-goal season, he now faces a life with Snyder’s death on his conscience. If punishment is measured in lost glory, prison time would be a mere fraction of that sentence.

CHARLIE GILLIS

Heatley, on crutches, and fellow Thrashers at Snyder’s funeral; the accident scene