HALIFAX – As Canada has virtually dominated World Championship hockey over the past six years, Dany Heatley has played a big part in that success.
Heatley made his debut with Team Canada at the 2002 World Championships in Sweden but it was the next year in Finland where he really found his groove. Heatley tied for second among tournament goal scorers with seven en route to a gold medal victory in overtime over Sweden.
He would repeat his performance with eight goals in 2004 in the Czech Republic, as Canada became the first team since the Czechs to repeat as World Champions, and Heatley was named championship MVP.
Heatley has now represented Canada in five tournaments. He says the experience never gets old. When the invitation is made and if he’s available, Heatley readily answers the call. It’s an example other superstars in the game should follow as the World Championship experience is a worthwhile endeavor and good for the game of hockey.
“I’ve always had fun at the World Championships. Anytime they’ve asked me to come it’s been an honor.” He said. “Any time you play for Canada in this tournament you come to win.”
Besides winning gold being around the boys has been among his highlights.
“Just being with different guys from around the NHL is great because you get to know them and play with them. I really enjoy that part.”
This year is made more special because the tournament is held in Canada. The home ice advantage is significant as Canadians, always proud of their national team, are even more so this spring.
“It feels different. We’re used to going over to other countries and not having enough time to get ready or just adjusting. It’s nice to be here and have your country standing behind you.”
On Friday, Heatley became Canada’s modern era goal scoring leader in World Championship play with his second of three tallies against Slovenia. Heatley passed Marcel Dionne who held the record with 21. Now Heatley has 23 goals and counting.
Playing on a line with Rick Nash and Ryan Getzlaf, Heatley has enjoyed so many great chances and no doubt more to come that will expand his points total.
Ken Hitchcock believes Heatley’s always been an exceptional talent but that his game has been taken to a new level.
“He’s always been good at using his quickness in small spaces on the ice,” said Hitchcock. “He’s such a top player but has improved a lot since 2006.”
And teammates concur.
“He’s a special player,” Jason Spezza said of his teammate with the Ottawa Senators. “I told him you’d better get your points this year because next year you’ll be playing in the playoffs.”
Now as Canada’s all-time leading goal scorer in World Championship play, Heatley is looking to add a third gold medal to his trophy case.
Team Canada’s 5-1 win over Slovenia was a positive first step in their quest to repeat as world champions. It would be impressive as a gold medal here on home turf would be their fourth in six years.
But before anyone gets that far down the road, there’s plenty of hockey to play and adjustments made towards their goal.