Daniel James Heatley, currently a winger for the NHL's Ottawa Senators and a burgeoning hockey superstar, was born on January 21, 1981 in Freibourg, West Germany. He is the eldest of two sons born to Canadian hockey player Murray Heatley and his German-born wife, Karin.
In 1984, Murray Heatley returned to Canada, moving his family to Calgary, Alberta, where his hockey-loving son Dany (the German spelling of "Danny") grew up as an avid fan of the Calgary Flames, and his all-time favorite player Joe Mullen. After a successful career in midget hockey and the Western Hockey League, Heatley chose to play hockey at his father's alma mater, the University of Wisconsin.
While rookies generally aren't expected to have too much of an impact in their first season, Wisconsin Badgers fans were in for a pleasant surprise. When 6'2", 200lbs Heatley was placed on a line with star centre Steve Reinprecht, he was able to demonstrate his great playmaking abilites by generating great scoring chances for his linemate. Further on in the season, as Reinprecht began drawing double teams as a result of his massive numbers, Heatley was left in a great position to score himself, which he did 28 times in 38 games that season. In addition to his +/- rating of +40, these stats earned Dany Rookie of the Year honors, and he also became the first freshman to earn WCHA first team honors since the 1970s. With Dany's assistance, Steve Reinprecht earned the WCHA scoring title (with 60 points), while the Wisconsin Badgers went on to win the WCHA championship title.
His outstanding play in his freshman year and at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Russia (Team Canada won bronze, while Dany had two goals in the tournament) sold the hockey scouts on his undeniable talent, who hailed him as an assured top-five pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Since the Draft was held in Calgary, Dany was eager to look his best and asked his parents for a new suit. His mother agreed, but on one condition-- that Dany cut his Richard Simmons-like coif. He complied, and on draft day a shorn Heatley was selected 2nd overall by the Atlanta Thrashers (behind New York Isanders goaltender Rick DiPietro, who went first overall).
The following year, Heatley returned to Wisconsin for another season to find that his team had been thoroughly depleted by the draft. As a result, Heatley became the target of many hard hits and double teams. Despite his sub-par supporting cast and the physical strain, Heatley took the team on his shoulders and managed to raise his scoring total from the year before, and was named to the NCAA All-American first team at the end of the season.
After his second season with the Badgers, Dany made his intentions clear that he intended to join the Thrashers the following season. In training camp prior to his first season with Atlanta, teammate J.P. Vigier accidentally knocked out Dany's front tooth with a high stick. Following the incident, Dany got himself a fake tooth, but only wears it for "special occasions", because he thinks he looks tougher without it.
Dany's rookie season saw him play just about every position on the ice, excluding goalie. Due to the Trashers' lack of seasoned players, Dany easily won spot of left winger on the first line with the 18-year old Russian sensation Ilya Kovalchuk. Their dynamic tandem resulted in Dany winning the Calder trophy for best rookie, while Kovalchuk finished second in Calder voting. The duo became the first players from the same team to be first and second in rookie scoring since the Ottawa Senators' Alexei Yashin and Alexandre Daigle in 1994, while additionally going on to be named co-Rookies of the Year.
In Dany's second season he saw more time playing the center position, while his new coach Bob Hartley gave Dany his due by appointing him alternate captain. Despite a stellar rookie season, Heatley was still relatively overlooked outside of Georgia-- but all that changed after the All Star break.
Playing on a line with Jaromir Jagr and Olli Jokinen, Dany had hoped to possibly score a goal in his All-Star debut. Instead, he scored four and recorded an extra assist (while netting another goal in the game-deciding shootout). While the East lost 6-5, Heatley became the youngest player to ever record a hat trick in the All-Star game, as well as tying the record for goals in an All-Star game, jointly held by Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemiuex, Mike Gartner, and Vincent Damphousse. Named the MVP for the game, Heatley (who was so overwhelmed that he forgot to put in his replacement tooth before meeting with the press-- and if being named MVP at the All-Star game isn't a special occasion, then I don't know what is) ended up forgetting his trophy when he left the post game interview table.
Dany finished the 2002-2003 season with 39 goals and 47 assists, as well as a decent +/- rating despite playing on a sub-par team. Judging from their abundance of young talent, however, the Thrashers should soon make it into the post-season, where their toothless wonder may one day win them a Stanley Cup.
Addendum, August 15, 2004:
As most people probably already know, Dany Heatley's bright future nearly went down the toilet
on a single October night in 2003. Driving his Ferrari
at approximately 130kmph on a narrow two-lane road, Heatley lost control and smashed the car into a brick and wrought iron fence. Heatley was left with a broken jaw, a torn anterior cruciate ligament
, a minor concussion
, and a bruised lung and kidney; he made a considerably speedy recovery and returned to the Trashers after missing the first 51 games of the 2003-04 season.
Unfortunately, that was hardly the worst of it. The front seat passenger, Heatley's close friend and fellow Thrasher Dan Snyder, was ejected 30 feet from the obliterated car, suffering a fractured skull. Despite hours of emergency brain surgery following the accident, Snyder died on October 5th, 2003 without ever emerging from his coma.
Blood tests showed that while Heatley had consumed some alcohol, his blood alcohol level was still well below the legal limit. In the 2003-2004 NHL season, he was limited to only 31 games as a result of his injuries. Heatley was indicted in July 2004 on six charges, including vehicular homicide in the first degree, vehicular homicide in the second degree, reckless driving, driving too fast for conditions, failure to maintain his lane and speeding. Heatley pled guilty and his lawyers plea-bargained their way out of jail time, so the convinction ended up being for second degree vehicular homicide and all of the moving violations. The final verdict laid down three years of probation, a fine for an undisclosed amount of money, and community service in the form of 150 inspirational speaker engagements over the next three years.
Further addendum, August 23, 2005: After he requested a trade due to a regretable but much-needed change of scenery, Atlanta traded Heatley to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for winger Marian Hossa and defenseman Greg de Vries. Heatley promptly signed a 3-year, $13.5M contract with Ottawa.