On Sept. 29 the Atlanta Thrashers, a team brimming with young
talent, were confident that their season opener would be the
first stop on the road to the franchise's first playoff berth.
Dany Heatley, 22, the star right winger, was driving from an
evening meet-and-greet with season ticket holders in his black
Ferrari 360 Modena with Dan Snyder, the Thrashers' 25-year-old
fourth-line center who was staying at his house. Suddenly, on a
curvy road in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood, Heatley lost
control and the car, going 80 mph, skidded into a brick pillar
and iron fence. Snyder was thrown from the vehicle and fractured
his skull. After six days in a coma he died on Sunday night.
Heatley's injuries are less serious: a broken jaw, a bruised lung
and torn knee ligaments. He could be back on the ice this season.
But he has problems beyond hockey: He has been charged with a
felony count of vehicular homicide, which carries a maximum
penalty of 15 years in prison.
Heatley's driving was a concern before the wreck. On Sept. 24, he
sped, with his father, Murray, to a charity golf tournament,
racing teammate Ilya Kovalchuk's Porsche. Murray told his friend
Don Phelps that the white-knuckle ride left him worried. "He said
he told Dany to slow down with that thing," says Phelps.
Investigators don't believe alcohol played a role in the
accident, although Heatley and Snyder had stopped to eat at a
restaurant where Heatley reportedly had one or two beers. (Blood
test results won't be known for several weeks.)
Heatley's wreck is a blow for the NHL. He was rookie of the year
in 2002 and All-Star Game MVP last season. With his offensive
skills and gap-toothed smile, he was seen as the heir to Mario
Lemieux as the NHL's marquee player. Snyder's death will leave
the team even more shaken. Says coach Bob Hartley, "We're human
beings, and we're a young team, so to say that our minds are 100
percent on the game would be totally false."
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO (HEATLEY) FATAL SKID Heatley (left) is charged in Snyder's death.
COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT CUNNINGHAM/GETTY IMAGES/NHLI (SNYDER) [See caption above]