The Sports Daily > The 6th Sens
Tonight is a Celebration of Dany’s Return

It’s been 541 days since TSN broke the story that Dany Heatley had requested a trade and the day has finally arrived, Dany Heatley will play in his first game at SBP since being dealt.

For many fans, news of the request was a shock. For those who had a thumb on the pulse of this team, it wasn’t unforeseen. The seeds of the Heatley saga were planted in that one moment when Heatley lashed out at the media following a loss to the Atlanta Thrashers. He said, “We weren’t good enough. You guys are going to break down, however you break it down. You come up with something new every day. The bottom line is we’re not getting wins.”

Although it must have been cathartic for Heatley, he whiffed like it was one of his one-timer attempts that season. In Ottawa, there are two rules for getting exemption from media criticism: one, often referred to as the Wade Redden Rule, is to take on many charitable responsibilities as feasibly possible; and two, never criticize the local beat guys – no matter how deserved you think it may be. For a star player who was quoted about as often as Alexei Kaigorodov, I don’t know what he was thinking. He had the ideal situation. Not only did he play alongside two great linemates in Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, Spezza was the de facto lightning rod of criticism for this team. Why Heatley would ever speak out and risk drawing that negative attention and criticism towards himself, I’ll never understand.

Regardless, his venting set off this preordained chain of events:

  • the media now had carte blanche to write about his contributions that were more one-dimensional than the font used to write this article;
  • rumours, rumours and more rumours;
  • then fans would remark about how noticeably big his beer belly was when they saw him at a local watering hole;
  • then he would ask for a trade;
  • then he would reject a trade to Edmonton;
  • and Ottawa would get bent over the table in any subsequent trade offer;

Naturally, it wasn’t long before Don Brennan jumped all over Heatley on Off the Posts:

Dany Heatley’s best shots of the night came after, not during, the Senators embarrassing 4-1 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers at Scotiabank Place Tuesday. They were directed at the media. On an evening when the Senators highest paid player did little else other than take an undisciplined double minor and misconduct with just under four minutes to go and feint hope still alive, Heatley was in a surly mood during a post-game scrum “You guys are going to break it down how you have to break it down,” Heatley said. “But the bottom line is we’re not getting wins. It’s in the room. We’ve got to find a way to do that.” A little later, he told reporters “you guys come up with something new every day,” when asked for answers. Yeah, we come up with something new every day, Dany boy. It’d be nice if you and your team could, too. Like, maybe a little effort? Maybe some goals? Maybe doing what you’re paid to do, too?

His Sun colleague, Bruce Garrioch, was quick to follow up on TSN’s report insinuating that the reason behind Heatley wanting out was his dislike for Cory Clouston:

Two league sources confirmed to Sun Media this morning that Heatley has informed Ottawa GM Bryan Murray he’d like to be dealt. It’s believed Heatley has a rocky relationship with coach Cory Clouston and would like to be moved so that he can get more of an opportunity to play his style of game.

It was a reason that TSN’s Darren Dreger elaborated on during an episode of That’s Hockey. According to Dreger, Dany was unhappy with Clouston’s style of coaching and the decision to bump him from the first power play unit to the second.  These decisions had Heatley contemplating whether or not to ask Bryan Murray for a trade at the trade deadline. Heatley ultimately acquiesced to his agent, JP Barry, who advised him to hold off on any trade requests until the season was over. When it eventually did end, Heatley spent time at the World Championships contemplating his future, inflating his international statistics and eventually deciding that he would formally request a trade.

It took awhile for the news to hit home. Even though some fans wouldn’t piss on Heatley if he was on fire and needed the flames put out, no one can dismiss the offensive production that Heatley brought to the table. He was a two-time 50-goal scorer and in 4-years with the Sens, he totalled 180 goals and 362 points and set a numerous club scoring records. His imminent departure would franchise defining moment. In any trade, Bryan Murray could never replace a 50-goal scorer. It simply was not going to happen. Not with a $7.6 million dollar cap hit, a full No-Trade Clause, a $4-million front loaded portion of his contract that was due on July 1st and a reputation that raised more red flags than a Canada Day celebration on Parliament Hill. If you need any insight as to how other teams felt about Heatley, look no further than the comments made to Sportsnet’s Mark Spector by Ron Hextall:

“If you look at this player’s past… I’m going to spell it out to you as nicely I can. He was in Atlanta, had an unfortunate (automobile) accident there and asked to be traded. OK, given the circumstances — there was a young man killed — I can live with that.

He goes to Ottawa, he’s on a pretty good team, they go to the finals, signs a big contract… Bang, all of the sudden now he’s got to be traded again. ‘Not only do I have to be traded, I have a no-trade clause. I want to pick where I’m going to go.’ Well, there are some issues there.

He had problems with his coach in Atlanta. My understanding is he had problems with Craig Hartsburg at the start of last year in Ottawa, and he had problems with … Cory Clouston. Three coaches, he’s had a problem with.

That raises huge red flags for us.”

(Note: As an aside, how funny would it have been if the Sens marketing department handed out red flags to every fan in attendance to wave in homage to this Hextall quote?)

With limited prospective trade partners, Heatley was in complete control over his destiny. In other words, a Heatley trade wasn’t going to happen overnight and in the days that followed his trade request, fans had an opportunity to digest everything and pore over objective statistics that proved that the Senators both performed better while under Clouston’s watch.

When Clouston arrived in Ottawa, Heatley had put up 22 goals and 45 points through 48 games – an average of 0.9375 points-per-game. In the 34 games under Clouston’s watch, he put up 17 goals and 27 points – an average of 0.794 points-per-game.

According to James Mirtle’s blog, From the Rink:

In terms of minutes, under Craig Hartsburg, Heatley averaged 21 minutes a game, including 4.64 minutes on the power play. After the coaching change, those numbers dropped to 18.85 minutes per game and 3.14 on the power play, meaning that 70 per cent of the reduction in ice time came with the man advantage.

But if you put that in the context of where this team was when that happened — i.e. out of the playoff race — and how much better they performed under Clouston (.618 points percentage compared to .427), it’s pretty hard to argue with the results.

The numbers do speak for themselves and because of it, Heatley wound up losing the public relations battle in hockey circles around the league. We couldn’t help but wonder if a player could actually put his own personal statistics ahead of a team that showed marked improvement under its new coach. What happened

It helped foster a hostile environment that either ripped Heatley or questioned whether there were ulterior motives for Heatley wanting out. (Note: Do a yourself a favour and Google search the phrase “real reason Heatley wanted out”.) Leading the character assassination campaign was none other than Don Brennan. Like weddings, he made trash talking Dany Heatley a regular summer occurrence. When it came to talking trash, Don elevated himself to the position of Grand Pope of Smack Talk from his comfortable perch – behind a computer and behind a telephone. Here’s a look at some of the things Don has had to say about Dany in print since his trade request:

  • “Of course, Heatley will never play another game for Ottawa. Not only would the team would be crazy to stick his cancerous attitude in its dressing room again, but Heatley doesn’t have the spine to pull on a Senators jersey again.” Ottawa Sun, June 17th
  • “The sky might be the limit, depending on what Murray includes in a trade that includes his big bonus crybaby.”Ottawa Sun, June 17th
  • “First of all, the spoiled, selfish suck-hole would hate it there.” Ottawa Sun June 11th
  • “Like a child, Heatley seemingly doesn’t understand the word commitment.” Ottawa Sun, June 12th
  • “If so, Barry and McAlpine have made dealing the Dany The Dog that much tougher.” Ottawa Sun June 18th
  • “To the contrary, as hot as the whiny winger has been against the Maple Leafs (37 games, 27 goals, 23 assists) over his career, Burke said yesterday he wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole.”Ottawa Sun, June 18th
  • “It took more than a dozen weeks for the spoiled, snivelling suck hole to grant the media minions he looks at down his nose and the faithful fans who pay his salary a full 15 minutes of his precious summer Friday.” Ottawa Sun, August 22nd

It’s not the first time that Don has inserted himself as a sub-plot to a story. Maybe you will remember the short lived war of words between Don and Georges Laraques during the Sens vs Penguins quarter-final playoff series from a few years ago. After penning an article that said that the Senators should target Crosby’s tender ankle with some well placed slashes in the playoffs, Georges responded by calling Don stupid. Don wrote that Georges doesn’t have the audacity to say that to it face. So Georges took him up on the offer and Don didn’t do anything. (Note: Most of the internet links to this story are long gone. There’s a lead-up to the story found here on Yahoo! And here’s one from Bleacher Report about the whole incident. Hopefully this will be the last time that I ever link to something from Bleacher Report.)

Maybe I’m one of the few, but it’s because of the local media’s piling on of Heatley that I am actually looking more forward to Heatley’s reactions pre and post-game to the Ottawa media than I am looking forward to most. Will we see a repeat of the Laraque vs Brennan incident wherein Don powdered out? And if he and Heatley come to blows, will this become my second favorite hockey media clash since Larry Brooks vs John Tortorella? If I was Bruce Garrioch for the day, I’d be carrying around that Gene Florcyk Award that he won for his coverage of the trade demand.

Heatley has not burned bridges with all of the media however, in a sit down interview with Ian Mendes and Rogers Sportsnet, he acknowledged the rumours and speculation that surrounded his departure:

“You just realize it’s all BS basically. A lot of people come up with things and come up with theories, but that’s kind of the new world with technology and blogs and things like that. It seems like people come up with all sorts of stories. But the bottom line is it was a very simple thing: I needed a hockey change and that’s what I felt was best for me.

I think the main thing is a change. I just needed a change. Some people can’t accept that. I know there’s been a lot of stuff speculated and lot of stories told. But the main thing is I felt like it was time for me to change and get a fresh start somewhere and I’ve enjoyed my time in San Jose.”

It would all be so much easier to believe if those who were close to the situation, like Roy Mlakar, weren’t mentioning on programs like Off the Record that the truth would come out someday. It has the makings of a tell-all book – a sequel to Dominant Dany Heatley. In fairness to Heatley’s agent JP Barry, who is paid to say things like the fans need to understand there are two sides to the story. There were reasons for what happened,” maybe there is some legitimate and reason for why Heatley actually wanted out. And in an article that ran in today’s Ottawa Sun, Heatley has no regrets in how he handled the situation: “I wouldn’t do anything differently. I think the one thing that obviously was a tough thing was how public it became. I certainly didn’t make that public and didn’t want that and I think that’s one thing that could have gone better.”

So Heatley’s disappointed that someone within the Senators organization leaked the information to TSN and helped nuke his reputation around the league? Tough titties. (Note: Although with the way that the past few weeks have gone, one has to wonder whether Brian Lee is a Heatley sympathizer. Will Lee go all Billy Koch on us and show up at tonight’s game wearing a Heatley Sharks jersey?) Heatley’s father even took Barry’s comments a step further in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, “You never get an unbiased opinion in a small community like Ottawa. The writers there know who feeds them, and if you don’t, they don’t let you in the building. It’s sad in a way, because the fans don’t understand what’s really going on.”

Who cares?

As as a fan, I cheer for the logo on the front and not the names on the back. It still doesn’t change the fact that Heatley requested a trade. Regardless of his reasoning for wanting out of Ottawa, the only substance that we’ve been given as fans is that he was disappointed with his diminished role. In a sport where loyalty is paramount, the fact that Heatley willingly threw Clouston under the bus while he was still a part of the organization was not only a discredit to Clouston, it was a discredit to Eugene Melnyk, the organization and the fans that had catered to him and the baggage that he brought from Atlanta following the tragic death of Dan Snyder. Judging by his summer silence in 2009, it’s safe to assume that Dany didn’t give a crap whether his reputation took a hit so long as he got what he wanted. And that’s really what this is about — Dany was just being Dany; getting what he wants on his own terms.

And for one night only, Dany Heatley’s terms don’t really matter. Players like Heatley deserved to be booed because after enjoying four seasons that as a collective were pretty damn good, he fled at the first sign of trouble after signing a 6-year extension. He’s nothing short of a front-running mercenary who selfishly thought going to a different team might put him on the fast track to winning a championship. For the first time since he left town, we will have an opportunity to boo the hell out of this sell-out.

So while I have nothing personal against Heatley, like his trade request, my decision to exercise my right as a fan to voice my displeasure at the former Senator is strictly a hockey decision. (Note: Let’s keep the snyd comments in check Ottawa. Right Tim Baines? )

Now, with that being said, suck it Heater!

Here are some Chant/Crowd Interactions/Sign Suggestions for Tomorrow:

  1. Sign: Hey Dany, teal brings out the colour of your dilated eye.
  2. Sign: I wanted to write a mean-spirited message but feared getting a letter from Tom Molloy.
  3. Sign: They traded Heatley and all we have to show for it is this sign and two months of Andy Sutton
  4. Chant: op-tions, op-tions, op-tions
  5. Chant:Eff-you Heat-ley!  (clap, clap, clap, clap, clap) You’re a sell out!  (clap, clap, clap, clap, clap) and repeat.
  6. Whenever the Sharks are on the power play and Heatley is on the ice, everyone in the crowd should have one arm raised and be waving it – mimicking Dany’s calls for a pass.
  7. If Steve Miller’s Take the Money and Run isn’t played tonight, I will be seriously disappointed.
  8. Here’s a Microsoft Paint job for a sign – Dany’s eyes.
  9. In December 1909, coming off a Stanley Cup winning season in Ottawa, it reported that Taylor had a falling out with the club over his government job and his demand for more money. The Renfrew Hockey Club of the new National Hockey Association (NHA) announced that they had signed Taylor, but a week later Taylor said that he had decided to stay in Ottawa. After another week, Taylor changed his mind and said he would join Renfrew, signing for a reported $5,250 for one season (because of the high salaries the players got, the fans called them the Renfrew Millionaires). This made him the highest paid Canadian athlete and he made more money than the Canadian prime minister. … One custom of the Ottawa fans towards opposition teams was to throw lemons. Cyclone Taylor, on his first visit back to Ottawa after signing with Renfrew, was pelted with lemons as well as a bottle. ~ via Hfboards
  10. Crowd chant of: Ho-ssa’s Got a Ring clap clap clap clap clap
  11. Sign: Thanks NHL for scheduling this game on a weekday.
  12. Chant: Da-ny Douche-bag clap clap clap clap clap

If you have suggestions, add them to the comment thread.