Ten months ago, Dany Heatley’s return to Ottawa was front-page material in the nation’s capital.
The former Senators star was the target of boos and vicious chants in his first game back at Scotiabank Place since asking for a trade out of Ottawa in the summer of 2009.
As he’s set to play his second game in Ottawa on Tuesday, Heatley says he will be a little more relaxed — even though he knows the animosity from Senators fans will still be present.
“I think it will be a little easier, but I’m sure there will still be some booing,” Heatley told Sportsnet via text. “As always, I’m excited to see some old teammates and staff with the Senators.”
When Heatley played against the Senators in Ottawa last December, he admitted he played with extra adrenaline as his San Jose Sharks cruised to an easy 4-0 victory. During the contest, Heatley was serenaded with chants of “Traitor, Traitor” and during one stoppage in play; several fans tossed Heatley jerseys onto the ice.
Heatley’s departure from Ottawa was one of the messiest divorces between a player and an organization in recent memory.
After a pair of 50-goal seasons, the forward inked a six-year extension to stay in Ottawa prior to the 2007-08 season. But just 18 months later, Heatley asked general manager Bryan Murray for a trade, citing a diminished role under former head coach Cory Clouston. He was traded to the Sharks in exchange for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and a second-round pick.
The deal left a bitter taste in the mouth of the Senators organization, especially after Heatley refused a trade to the Edmonton Oilers in the summer of 2009. As a result, the Senators were left to pay a $4 million roster bonus to the winger on July 1 — to which club owner Eugene Melnyk filed a grievance seeking his money back. When Heatley came back to Ottawa last December, Melnyk’s disdain for his former star player was clearly evident.
“You know what, I wouldn’t even give him the time of day,” Melnyk told reporters at the time. “It’s not even worth a comment. He doesn’t even warrant a mention.”
When Heatley makes his second return to Ottawa on Tuesday night, he will be wearing a Minnesota Wild jersey.
He was traded from San Jose to Minnesota in July, in a deal that sent Martin Havlat to the Sharks. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson traded Heatley after the sniper submitted a list of 10 teams he would not go to on July 1. The Wild were not on that list, but many speculated that Heatley was not happy about being moved to the North Star state.
However, the 30-year-old appears to be enjoying another fresh start in Minnesota. In the Wild’s home opener on Saturday, Heatley was welcomed with a standing ovation from the crowd. He immediately showed his gratitude by responding with a goal and an assist, during a 4-2 win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets.
“I’m really excited to be here, I think we have a good young team,” added Heatley. “I really like playing with Mikko (Koivu) and (Devin) Setoguchi. There is a lot of excitement around and it’s fun to play here. The fans are great.”