Dan Snyder was a professional hockey player who played centre for the upstart Atlanta Thrashers until his untimely death during the 2003-04 preseason. (That the owner of the NFL's Washington Redskins is also a man named Daniel Snyder is purely coincidental.)

His hockey career started with the 1995-96 season, during which he played for the Owen Sound Platers of the Ontario Hockey League, where, over the course of four seasons, he established himself as a talented, gritty forward, similar to the way Brendan Shanahan or Jeremy Roenick plays -- able to score with relative frequency and not afraid to drop his gloves to settle a point. He wasn't all that big a player at 6"/180 lbs, though that didn't seem to stop him from annually-increasing his penalty minutes total. In memoriam, the Platers would go on to retire his uniform number. His complete OHL statistics follow.

                                    Regular season      Playoffs
Season	Team	                    GP  G   A   Pts PIM GP  G   A   Pts PIM
1995-96	Owen-Sound Platers          63  8   17  25  78  6   1   2   3   4
1996-97	Owen-Sound Platers          57  17  29  46  96  4   2   3   5   8
1997-98	Owen-Sound Platers          46  23  33  56  74  10  2   3   5   16
1998-99	Owen-Sound Platers          64  27  67  94  110 16  8   5   13  30
Totals                              230 75 146 221  358 36 13  13   26  58  

Following the conclusion of the 1998-99 season, Snyder signed with the Orlando Solar Bears of the International Hockey League, where he spent two full seasons in a more limited role than he'd had with the Platers, scoring only 68 points in 147 games. With his production decreasing, he took on a more physical style of gameplay, earning more than 100 penalty minutes during both his seasons with the Solar Bears. His complete IHL statistics follow.

                                    Regular Season      Playoffs
Season  Team                        GP  G   A   Pts PIM GP  G   A   Pts PIM
1999-00	Orlando Solar Bears         71  12  13  25  123 6   1   2   3   4
2000-01	Orlando Solar Bears         78  13  30  43  127 16  7   3   10  20
Totals                              147 25  33  68  300 22  8   5   13  24

Following the end of the 2000-01 IHL season, Dan signed as a free agent with the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers. The following season (2001-02) he played mostly for Atlanta's American Hockey League affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, though he enjoyed a brief late-season call-up to the Thrashers before being returned to the AHL to rejoin the Wolves for their playoff run, which, despite finishing fourth in their division that season, they concluded by winning the Memorial Cup, the AHL equivalent of the Stanley Cup. His complete AHL statistics follow.

 
                                    Regular Season      Playoffs
Season  Team                        GP  G   A   Pts PIM GP  G   A   Pts PIM
2001-02	Chicago Wolves              56  11  24  35  115 22  7  10   17  25
2002-03	Chicago Wolves              35  11  12  23  39  --  --  --  --  --
Totals                              91  22  35  77  154 22  7   10  17  25

The 2002-03 season had Snyder dividing time between the Thrashers and the Wolves, spending different halves of the season with each team, cementing himself further into the fourth-line centre role he'd been culivating. His complete NHL statistics follow.

                                    Regular Season      Playoffs
Season  Team                        GP  G   A   Pts PIM GP  G   A   Pts PIM
2001-02	Atlanta Thrashers           11  1   1   2   30  --  --  --  --  --
2002-03	Atlanta Thrashers           36  10  4   14  34  --  --  --  --  --
Totals                              49  11  5   16  64  --  --  --  --  --

He was expected to make the team out of training camp in 2003-04, but on September 29, 2003, about a week before the regular season was to begin, he attended a team function at Philips Arena, kind of a "meet the team" party for Thrashers season ticket holders. Afterward, he and teammate Dany Heatley were on their way back to Heatley's place (Snyder was staying there during training camp as he did not live in the Atlanta area), when Heatley, driving a black 2003 Ferrari with Snyder in the passenger seat, swept around a tight curve in the road and crashed into a concrete post. Police estimated that Heatley's Ferrari was travelling at approximately 130 KM/H (80 MPH) when it hit the post, completely shearing the car in two and throwing its occupants about 13 metres away. No other vehicles were involved in the crash, but it looked like the car had been crushed between two 18-wheeler trucks. It was more recognisable as a heap of scorched scrap metal than a car. Heatley managed to survive the wreck with a broken jaw, a bruised kidney, nerve damage in his shoulders, and a number of torn ligaments in his right knee. Snyder, however, was not so lucky. He seems to have landed head-first on the blacktop, suffering extensive spinal and brain damage in the process. EMTs at the scene found him unconscious, and he remained unconscious until he died of his injuries five days later, after undergoing brain surgery in an attempt to correct the damage.

Heatley had reportedly consumed a small amount of alcohol the night of the crash, though not enough to cause inebriation. Snyder's family has accepted that it was no more than a terrible accident, and have indicated that they do not want him to be charged, which helps his cause greatly. Heatley returned to the Thrashers' lineup on January 28, 2004, against St. Louis, almost exactly four months after the accident. In early 2005, his sentence was finally handed down: 3 years of probation and three years of giving in-person public service announcements about the dangers of reckless driving, along with some custom limitations imposed by the court on any car he drives which would make it impossible to exdeed 70 MPH (kind of surprising, I thought for sure he'd lose his license).

The aftermath of the crash drew the Atlanta Thrashers together as they'd never been before. They draw inspiration from the incident and as a result. Each player wears a patch emblazoned with the number 37 on their game jerseys, as Snyder wore number 37. All the other teams that Atlanta has played on the road this season has offered a moment of silence for Snyder prior to the teams' first meeting, and coverage of the criminal investigation into the crash has been all over hockey media. Heatley has released one statement expressing his remorse since the crash, but has otherwise kept silent, and spent most of his time outside of physical rehabilitation therapy in solitude.

Dan Snyder was buried in his hometown, Elmira, Ontario, on October 7, 2003. The entire Thrashers team and its personnel were in attendance, including Heatley (in crutches). Snyder's father and brother have briefly accompanied the Trashers on a couple of road trips, acting as good luck charms and to represent themselves during pre-game moments of silence.

This has been a particularly grim season for the NHL. Roman Lyashenko, a defencemen for the New York Rangers, committed suicide during the summer, and former Chicago Blackhawks captain Keith Magnuson was killed during a traffic accident in Ontario in December 2003, with former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Rob Ramage implicated with the responsibility. It seems to be a rarity when active and well-known professional athletes die. Hopefully the trend will not continue at as great a pace as it has been recently.

Sources:

The Internet Hockey Database: Dan Snyder -- http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php3?pid=24089
Heatley postpones first skate since car wreck -- http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/columns/story?id=1686996

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