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Article from this morning's Tampa Tribune
Dan, Dany Always On Thrashers' Minds
Published: Oct 22, 2003
TAMPA - They will not be defeated.
Even when they lose.
The Atlanta Thrashers finally were beaten Tuesday night, beaten by the unbeaten Lightning. The Thrashers entered the game 3-0-2, the best start in their five- year history. They have displayed amazing grace.
For there is more than hockey at work here. There is the human spirit. There is tragedy and there is triumph. And there is healing. The wounds are real, but the Thrashers are a tower of strength every time they hit the ice, even when it's just a Tuesday morning skate.
``That's the oasis right now,'' Thrashers center Marc Savard said. ``You get out there, and there is only the hockey.''
Savard wore street clothes. On his jacket, not far from his heart, he wore a lapel pin with a No. 37 on it. For a teammate. For a friend. For Dan.
Dan Snyder, lover of life, was just 25 when he died Oct. 5, four days before the Thrashers opened the season, six days after a speeding black Ferrari, driven by his friend, teammate and Thrashers star Dany Heatley, smashed into a brick and wrought-iron fence.
Heatley is recovering from a broken jaw and knee surgery. He has been charged with felony vehicular homicide. The Thrashers keep hitting the ice.
``We think about Dan. We think of Dany,'' Atlanta captain Shawn McEachern said. ``And then we go to work.''<
More Than Just Teammates
The housemates were an odd couple.
Dan and Dany. Dany and Dan.
Dany Heatley was the 22-year- old wonder with a toothless grin whose talent burned like the sun, as shown by his four goals and MVP award in last season's All- Star Game. Danny Snyder had only grabbed a toehold in the NHL. He was a grinding fourth-line center who had worked his way onto rosters all his life. Snyder, who went undrafted, was really only famous in one place - Elmira, Ontario, a small town 70 miles east of Toronto.
The two men hit it off. When Snyder came to Atlanta during the summer to do some early work, Heatley said forget a hotel, stay at my place. In return, Snyder surprised Heatley by buying him a new grill and surprising him with barbecued steaks. The chef wore a smile.
``He always did,'' said Thrashers winger J.P. Vigier, Snyder's linemate on two championship teams in the minor leagues. ``I think of him all the time. He was a great, goofy guy, always with that smile. Even if things weren't going great, he'd always have something for you, something to make you realize there's always another day.''
Their lockers are side by side in the Atlanta dressing room. Snyder's skates and 37 sweater remain. The Thrashers take a 37 sweater to hang in a locker on the road. They wear a 37 on their uniforms.
Dany and Dan were together on the night of Sept. 29. With the rest of the team, they mingled with season-ticket holders in downtown Atlanta. Around 9:30, they went to grab something to eat. Around 10:30, emergency workers found the Ferrari torn in two. It looked like a twisted aluminum can. Dan Snyder never recovered from his coma.
Wounds That You Can't See
Dany Heatley's No. 15 Thrashers sweater also hung in Atlanta's dressing room in Tampa.
``He needs us,'' McEachern said.
The Thrashers worry about Heatley's psychological injuries more than his physical ones. They see pain coming at him from all directions.
``He'll live with this forever,'' Thrashers General Manager Don Waddell said.
But the Fulton County attorney might not try to put Heatley in jail. There are a couple of reasons. While Heatley clearly was reckless on a narrow two-lane road - estimates put the Ferrari's speed at 80 mph - alcohol was not involved. Then there is the main reason: The wishes of the family.
Dan Snyder's family.
``We all draw our strength from them,'' Waddell said.
Graham and LuAnn Snyder have lost a son, but have chosen to forgive Dany Heatley. They chose to inspire. They will file no lawsuit. They will carry their grief but pick up Dany Heatley if he should fall. One life is over. The Snyders want another one to go on. The Snyders call Dany Heatley nearly every day, to see how he's doing.
``Their humanity can bring tears to you,'' Savard said.
And strength. It brings strength.
``It's far from being over,'' Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. ``It's going to be with us until the end of our lives. We have to learn to move on ... not move away from them, but keep going on the ice, because the ice is the best place for us to be.''<
An Entire Town Mourned
Dan Snyder was buried where he was born the day after the Thrashers began their season. Elmira said goodbye. His teammates were there. Graham and LuAnn led the mourners on the three- block walk from their home to the church and cemetery.
The sidewalks were lined with hundreds of players from youth hockey leagues from miles around. They wore their tiny hockey sweaters, bowed their tiny heads and tapped the pavement with their sticks. It was a hockey country's way of honoring a hero. The grown-ups cried again.
About the Thrashers' season opener. It was against Columbus in Atlanta. The Thrashers won on a late goal by defenseman Chris Tamer, who scored once all of last season. The game-winner was from the point; it wasn't even a hard shot.
``Who knows about that first game?'' Savard said. ``Tamer doesn't score much. He takes a shot and somehow it finds its way in. If I know Dan Snyder, being Dan Snyder, if anybody can cheat up there, bring a foot down and redirect it, he did.''
Dan is with them. So is Dany. So is the ice.
There's always another day.
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