Dany Heatley: like Stalin, but with a slightly better one-timer

To live in Ottawa, to read the sports pages, to listen to the talk radio – it is to be exposed daily to the view that hockey player Dany Heatley ranks among history’s greatest monsters, right up there with Pol Pot and Betty White (she knows why).

Once one of the most popular people in the nation’s capital, along with Daniel Alfredsson and the city worker who finally plows your street three days after the blizzard, Heatley is now thoroughly despised, profanely assailed by the community as a quitter and a traitor. To be fair, a small number of Ottawa residents are still keen to give him the key to the city, though only if he agrees to accept it rectally.

This in itself is not surprising. Heatley only recently signed a long-term contract with the Ottawa Senators, at a salary that averages out to $7.5-million per year (or roughly $2.5-million per great game he had in 2008-09). Then, abruptly and unexpectedly during this off-season, he sent word that he wanted to be traded out of Ottawa for sucky-baby-based reasons. Not enough ice time. Too much criticism from the coach. Bedtime bottle of formula not warmed to correct temperature. That kind of thing.

What’s truly fascinating in all this is the utter ham-handedness with which Heatley has “managed” this situation. You’d think a guy who’s raking in millions might be willing to part with $10,000 or $20,000 for some top-notch strategic advice. Nothing fancy – just the basics: precondition the fans to expect an ultimatum, praise the community for its past support (…but golly, I’m an elite player in this league and want to go somewhere where the coaching staff sees me as such, etc. etc.), sit down with a sympathetic reporter and lay out the reasons for wanting out, enlist a teammate or two to speak out as a third-party supporter, maybe visit Ottawa and do a charity thing to emphasize the It’s Nothing Personal aspect of it all.

But nooooooooo. Heatley has done none of that. His trade request was crude and insulting and not couched by any (genuine or manufactured) love for Ottawa and its fans. He’s remained silent for weeks now, allowing the Senators to portray him as a total douche and giving reporters and columnists nothing to write about except those douchey musings. And now, having demanded out, he’s gone and vetoed the only decent trade the Senators could come up with – naturally, without so much as a word as to why.

Would most Ottawa fans be down on Heatley no matter what right now? Absolutely. But the level of hatred in the city could have been diminished, and the degree to which he’s now viewed as a Problem Child in cities around the league could have been avoided entirely. Whoever is counseling this guy is giving the worst advice since an executive said to the head of NBC programming: “Here’s an idea – how about we revive Knight Rider?”

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