Posted on December 2, 2010
It's been 15 months since Dany Heatley left the Ottawa Senators in a cloud of mystery after demanding a trade at the end of the 2008-09 season, but finally the prodigal son will return.
Heatley, now a member of the San Jose Sharks, returns to Scotiabank Place for the first time Thursday night since being traded September 12, 2009.
While Heatley was revered by fans when he helped lead the Senators to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007, fans were disgusted by his request for a trade two seasons later, especially considering he had just finished the first year of a six-year $45 million extension with the team.
But fans weren't the only ones disillusioned by the talented winger. Teammates were left wondering how Heatley could turn his back on them so easily and while they never really got the answers they were looking for they have moved on and Thursday's game, in their opinion, is really not that big a deal.
Veteran centre Mike Fisher, who was one of the more vocal players following Heatley’s request, says the team has moved on.
"We've moved forward and we're not going to dwell on anything that's happened," said Fisher. "He's in a spot where he wants to be now. It's got to be business as usual."
Fisher admitted he held no ill will towards Heatley and wished him nothing but the best.
Late last week Senators owner Eugene Melnyk admitted he wouldn't even give Heatley the time of day, but most players said they would have no problem exchanging pleasantries with their former teammate, and that included Senators general manager Bryan Murray.
"I had a good talk with Dany after we made the deal," said Murray. "I don't know that he'll extend his hand or I will, but I certainly would talk to him if he wants."
Prior to Thursday's game Heatley admitted he was comfortable playing the role of the scoundrel.
"It is what it is," said Heatley. "Like I said I'm happy to see a lot of people in this town. I met a lot of great people during my time here and the people that cast me as a villain that's fine.
"I'm just going to go out there and play hockey."
The 29-year-old anticipates being booed, but in the end said it's just about trying to earn a win for the Sharks.
"I’m not nervous, I've been through this before," Heatley said. "Once the puck drops it will be just another game."
Jason Spezza doesn't expect things will be easy for Heatley.
"I'm sure it's not going to be pleasant like anyone that goes back to a situation like he's coming back to," said Spezza. "But maybe we can get a jolt from the crowd."
The Senators, who have lost six of their last eight, can't afford to get caught up in the drama surrounding Heatley's return as they have enough turmoil to deal with.
"It's a big game, but apart from (Heatley) we have to be much better and focused," Fisher said. "I think we've had a couple of good days to re-energize and focus on what we need to do and obviously the fans will be charged up and we'll be ready."