"It's a special feeling," he said of the chanting. "You don't see that every game. . . . I feel so much better."
I was so weird to see him actually celebrate a goal. He scored twice yesterday and there was like, absolutely no reaction from him. Ahh, you little hockey robot.
*dies* People went to the game early to boo Heatley. I had no idea it was such an event!
Fans come early to dump on Heatley
By CARROLL ROGERS
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 01/03/06
Tis the season of fresh starts and new beginnings and on Monday afternoon Thrasher fans took the opportunity to give Dany Heatley their opinion on his.
They booed it. At least the loud part did of a crowd of 12,536 at Philips Arena.
It's been four months since Heatley asked the Thrashers to trade him so he could escape daily reminders of his car accident that killed his friend and teammate Dan Snyder.
Monday was his first game back in town, now as an Ottawa Senator, and he was met with boos — during his warm-up, his mention in the starting lineup, his introduction, and virtually every time he touched the puck during the game.
That was 13 times in the first period alone, starting with a shot on goal that sailed wide in the opening moments.
Heatley did score but that was with seven minutes were left in the final period and his team trailing 8-2. It was little consolation for him — it gave fans another reason to boo — and it was little consolation for the Senators. The team with the best record in the NHL lost 8-3.
Dennis Grogan, a five-year Thrasher season-ticket holder from Dacula, had arrived at the game an hour early, the earliest he ever had, so he could be in position at the base of the stairs in section 116 to boo Heatley as he came onto the ice.
He waited for 18 of Heatley's teammates to skate out from the tunnel before Heatley finally emerged, second-to-last. Heatley gave a couple high fives to fans draped over the rails before skating onto the blue line that is garnished with the words "Thank You Fans!"
"Booooo" Grogan bellowed, standing, arms folded, eyeing Heatley through the bees nest of players flying past.
"We supported you, you jerk," he shouted once as Heatley skated by with his eyes fixed on the ice.
Then later, as Heatley stood just on the other side of the Plexiglas from him, Grogan shouted: "Welcome back, you jerk!"
"That's probably not something I should be proud of," Grogan said later. "But I can't imagine people cheering him when he comes back in an opposing uniform. Cheer him for getting his life straightened out, OK, but how can you cheer him on the opposing team if you're a true fan of the Thrashers?"
Grogan's main beef wasn't Heatley's decision to leave Atlanta. "Who could blame him for wanting to go?" Grogan said. It was his timing. Heatley asked for a trade August 9, a full two weeks after the NHL lockout ended.
Yet Grogan didn't have big complaints about the players Waddell got in return, just that Marian Hossa was more highly-paid than Heatley.
So one of the more passionate dissenters understood him wanting to go? That's the exact reason other, quieter fans, cut Heatley some slack.
"It wasn't like he left for more money," Thrasher fan George Seifert pointed out. "He had a little better reason."
Heatley had plenty of supporters among Thrasher fans Monday, like Robbie Koerner, a 35-year-old fan from Buford, who wore Heatley's old No. 15 Thrashers jersey.
"It's good to see him back in town," Koerner said. "As long as he's happy, it doesn't matter to me."
Heatley's trade wasn't based on hockey reasons, so it's fitting that reactions weren't either, especially the negative ones.
"Through the whole accident, the community supported him," said Thrasher fan Paul Gawryszewski, 43, of Marietta. "I felt he let the community down. It seemed like he kind of left us high and dry."
He, his wife Nancy and their 11-year-old daughter Megan booed from their seats in the third deck throughout the game.
"He thumbed his nose at the support the city gave him," Nancy Gawryszewski said. "I thought he showed a lot of integrity through the ordeal, then a complete lack of integrity when he asked to be traded."
A women nearby said "I say cut Heatley a break."
She wasn't the only fan tired of hearing boos. Joe Johnston, a 27-year-old from Decatur, yelled "Shut up!" as he headed toward his seat at the start of the second period.
"He's suffered enough," Johnston said. "He's got to live the rest of his life knowing he killed his friend. That's not bad enough, you've got to boo him?"
One thing that did throw booing off-rhythm was all the cheering fans needed to do for the Thrashers. The players who came to Atlanta in Heatley's trade — Hossa and Greg de Vries — combined for three goals in the blowout.
Fans chanted "Hossa, Hossa" as much to pump up Hossa as belittle Heatley, perhaps. If Heatley didn't get that message, then a chorus of guys sitting behind the goal chanted "Heatley, Heatley, you [stink]" in the third period.
Heatley did get the message, though. After the game he had no problem acknowledging he heard the boos. Who didn't?
"At least they're doing something, making some noise," Heatley said. "If they want to do that, it doesn't bother me. Whatever they want to do."
Heatley will be back one more time this season on Friday, March 10.
When he was asked if his return brought back bad memories, Heatley said no, and added: "It was interesting to be on the other side, that's for sure. I'm part of a new team, and I'm happy where I am."