Dany Heatley News Conference
Posted: Friday December 26, 2003 8:58PM; Updated: Friday December 26, 2003 9:30PM
Dany Heatley: I just want to thank everybody for coming today. And to start off, I just want to say that I'm very sorry and deeply saddened about the loss of my friend and teammate, Dan Snyder. Snydes was a great guy. He meant a lot to me and he was a great teammate and a great person. I'm going to miss him forever. I just want to thank the Snyder family for their support. It's been unbelievable. Graham, LuAnn, Jake and Erica have given me so much strength and they are an amazing family. Right now I'm just continuing to rehab, emotionally and physically, and I will continue to do that to try to get on the ice as quickly as I can. It's been a very emotional two months for me and my family and everyone involved. I just want to thank my family, the Snyders again, all of the fans, all of my friends and the Thrashers organization and my teammates for helping me through this time. I'm moving forward. I just want to get back out there as quickly as I can.
Question: Dany, it's been three months -- do you remember any details of the accident?
Heatley: At this time, I can't comment on anything involving the accident. Someone will address that later today.
Question: Have you sought advice from anybody that could've been in a similar situation? Like maybe a David Wesley for the Hornets who was involved in an accident.
Heatley: There's been a lot of people have written in or written me letters or tried to get a hold of me. I'm not going to share those people, but one person, Slava Kozlov, has really helped me a lot through this. He's been a good friend before this and he's continued to be a great friend.
Question: When players have been injured in this league and have come back to skate they say the ice often feels foreign to them emotionally as well as physically. What did it feel like to you? What were your sensations when you went on the ice?
Heatley: I was very surprised. I felt pretty good out there and I think I could compare it to the summertime when you are off the ice for a couple of months and you do feel very foreign. But I was surprised that I felt pretty good out there. I wasn't going 100 percent, but I felt pretty good and it was just another step in the rehab.
Question: The physical rehabilitation, a lot of players say it's very tough. For you, what has been tougher -- obviously they are both ongoing -- but the emotional rehabilitation or the physical rehabilitation?
Heatley: They've both been tough, but I think emotionally that's been the most draining and the most tough to get through. But like I said before, the people around me have been unbelievable. The Snyders have been unbelievable and have really given me a lot of strength through this.
Question: You spoke about it briefly before about the Snyder family. And I think a lot of us were surprised at first about how incredibly forgiving they were. Can you talk about the first time you spoke to his family and what that meant to you?
Heatley: It was very emotional. Obviously, it's a tough time. They are just unbelievable. I will continue to give them as much support as they've given me through this. They are a very great family, and I can't say enough about them.
Question: What's been the toughest part of watching the team do what they've done and not be able to be a part of it?
Heatley: Obviously, you want to be out there helping your team, but honestly I'm having a lot of fun watching these guys and being around them every day. This is the fifth year for us right now and the guys are playing great. It's great to see the guys rally around what happened here. It's actually been good to watch.
Question: Do you anticipate anytime soon that your life will return to normal? And maybe you can describe what normal might be.
Heatley: I don't know. There's times that I look on everything. Physically I might not play this year or I could be back. It's different for everybody with this type of injury. We'll see what happens and we'll take it week by week.
Question: Obviously there's probably been a real variation in the public and private reaction that you've gotten. Can you talk a little bit about that in terms of endorsements ...
Heatley: I haven't even thought ... nothing like that even crossed my mind about endorsements or anything like that. I think what I followed in the public, they've been great to me. Everyone around me has treated me with respect and I appreciate that. Everyone has been great.
Question: The reaction you got Tuesday from the fans when you went out to skate -- what was that like? Were you kind of nervous about what it might be like?
Heatley: No, that was nice. We have a good core group of fans that are their for a lot of practices. There were a lot of them there and a lot of kids, which is always great to see -- that's why you play this game. It was fun for me. It really lifted my spirits.
Question: I know we are going to hear from Mr. Garland shortly, but do you have, or can you express the extent to which you have a desire to see the legal process come to an end so that you can put that part of it behind you?
Heatley: That's just another thing that has to be dealt with. Just like the injury. They are both separate things, and it will all come to a conclusion at the right time.
Question: To follow up on a question asked earlier in regards to normal life, do you foresee with an event something like this that happens to a person that you'll ever be able to be "normal" in the way that you were before the accident?
Heatley: I think as a player I like to think that I will be. As a person I don't think you'll ever be the same. I think this has changed me and it will change me down the road. But you have to go on and try to deal with things the best you can.
Question: You certainly don't have to do this. Why are you here today? Why did you come forward?
Heatley: I just felt that at this time, I just started skating this week, that I wanted to do something. I stepped forward with the process and that's why we are doing this today.
Question: Dany, you said you don't think you'll ever be the same. Two things. First of all, how do you think you'll be different? And also, could you compare where you are emotionally now to three months ago? Is it better now than it was three months ago?
Heatley: It is getting a little better. With the support of everybody, I don't think I'd be here today. But they've really helped me through this -- everyone that I mentioned before. I've come a ways since three months ago but there is still a long road ahead. Again, it's something that we'll deal with. I think that's just a private thing that goes on with me. I'm going to think about this forever. I mean, every time I go to sleep I think about it. I think about Dan. And that's something that I'll deal with for the rest of my life.
Question: I'm wondering if you were worried about the reaction of your teammates and what it was like when you first started to develop a routine with them working out and what that's been like.
Heatley: A hockey team is a very tight group. It's like a family. And they've treated me like family ever since the start. I think everyone came to the hospital and everyone wanted to. And when I went back in the locker room, they were great. It's just like regular teammates and they've been perfect.
Question: The sense of remorse that you feel -- does it have to do with some responsibility or an overwhelming sense of responsibility or is that holding you back?
Heatley: You know what, again, I think that's private and I'm going to deal with that and my family members. I don't really want to talk about that.
(Heatley leaves, attorney Ed Garland and Thrashers general manager Don Waddell enter)
Ed Garland: I'll address the status of the pending legal investigation growing out of the accident. Where it stands at this point is that there are a number of factual and scientific issues involved in the reconstruction of this accident. The prosecution is carefully studying the circumstances of the events. We are doing the same. So at this time, the results of those studies are not at all conclusive or finished. I would anticipate in the next 30 to 45 days that most of the work will have been completed and we will reach a point where there will be specific information concerning what the facts show of how this happened. And until that time, we won't discuss the details of what happened.
Question: Do you have any idea of a timeframe? Without discussing details of the investigation itself, how about a timeframe?
Garland: I would say within 45 days from now that the prosecution will have finished its investigation and will be taking some positions. So I would imagine within 45 days we will be dealing more specifically with what is going to happen in this matter.
Question: Can you talk about the studies that are going on? Is there cooperation between yourself and the prosecution? Are you sharing information or are you doing it independently?
Garland: I don't want to go into the details, but the prosecution is having tests done and we are having tests done. And those results will be evaluated. There are also factual matters that are coming in from different sources that bear upon the fact that this was an accident. But I don't want to go into the details at this time.
Question: Have there been any issues with regard to Dany's celebrity status as you've pursued this with the prosecution?
Garland: I think the prosecution is taking a look at this case trying to keep the fact of his celebrity status from being a factor. And I would say that we have a lot of confidence in the justice of the system and the process that is underway. And I am confident that at the end of this study of the matter that there will be a just and proper result here.
Question: From a legal perspective, the Snyder family's public support and commitment to Dany Heatley, do you anticipate that will have any bearing whatsoever on the outcome of the process?
Garland: I can't imagine that it would not. In the mind of someone trying to evaluate what is right and proper it will be something that is thought about. But it will not govern the approach that the prosecution takes. And I think it will also affect, whether it is the judge or the prosecutor or anyone, their view of Dany.
Question: About three months ago, Don Samuel said of the police officer at the scene that anytime someone makes a statement about somebody going 80, he called it unreliable. Do you share that view, too?
Garland: I'm not going to comment on the reliability or unreliability of the information that we have received. But I will say that when we finish this process we will have a reliable information on which a sound decision can be made. And I am optimistic about the ultimate outcome.
Question: Don, tell us about this week and what this means to this team to have Dany on the ice and then to come forward and speak today.
Don Waddell: I think this is just another step in the process. We talked about from his rehab standpoint that it's gone very well. And it was time for him now to get on the ice which now has become part of his rehab program. And for the guys, he's been around, so he's been in the locker room every day working out. So for the guys it really hasn't changed, other than that I think we are all excited to see him on the ice because that's what he does for a living.
Question: This decision for Dany to come and speak today, was this something you had discussed with him for doing on quite awhile now. Did you say, "OK, when you start to skate, we need to have some type of press conference?" Or was this something where he came to you and said he felt like doing this on his own?
Waddell: I think this is something that between him and his family they've discussed about doing. And the time, he felt that because he came on the ice he felt comfortable now coming out and talking.
Question: What is the correlation between the legal issues that he has to face and a possible return date. Would those issues have to be resolved before he could play for the Atlanta Thrashers again?
Waddell: Absolutely not. His part of the process of him rehabbing and getting ready to play, we feel, as he said, there's no timeframe yet. He has rehabbed very well so far and if it continues the way it's going we're anticipating maybe practicing in the next four to five weeks with the team. And then we're probably still two or three months away from him playing. But we're just moving along and we're handling the hockey side of it. So far to date, his rehab has gone very well.
Question: If Dany Heatley is ready to play hockey in the middle of February, is there something legally that would prevent him from doing so?
Garland: At this time, there is not.
Question: Do you anticipate at some point that if he's able to play, let's say at the end of February, what process from your end, from a legal end, would have to be dealt with so that he could go on and do that? Or would that never be an issue?
Garland: At some point in time there will be a resolution to this case. And the court processes will be involved. The timetable of those processes, no but one could predict at this point. Of course, what the court does and that entire process can supercede anything. However, we are hopeful that there is not a conflict.
Question: Is it normal that there would be about a 4 1/2-month time period to have all of this information in maybe just because of the specter of who it is? Is that normal when you are talking about investigations like this?
Garland: It varies based on the resources of the prosecution and the commitments of the various people who do it have. I think this is proceeding in a normal fashion. It is not being given any special treatment, but it is being very carefully studied. So this is somewhat normal, but it varies greatly.