Yes, THAT Dany Heatley

Heater

St. Louis defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has 902 NHL games played.

Detroit’s Stephen Weiss has 720.

Boston’s Greg Campbell has 706 under his belt.

The BlueJackets’ Nathan Horton? 626

Keith Yandle: 560

Daniel Winnik: 554

On the goaltending side, Chris Mason has 410.

Even NHL madman Dan Carcillo has 427 major league games.

All former Rampage players whose elevated style, consistency, scoring, and well…punching, make us proud that we had a moment or two to see them perform on AT&T Center ice–Ok, there are moments when Carcillo goes off the rails, but you get the drift.

Yes, a degree of recognition comes to a true hockey fan’s face. A nod of respect. A raised eye brow perhaps or a thoughtful, hand to the chin and a nonverbal “wow” comes to your friend’s expression when you tell them the Rampage picked up Dany Heatley.

Yeah. That Dany Heatley.

Heatley comes to the Alamo City in the, putting it in literary terms, denouement of an extraordinary career filled with red lights and arms raised action. His 869 NHL games are a tad below Bouwmeester’s, but those 369 goals and 791 points take his numbers to another level and gives San Antonio’s its most prolific pro player on hockey’s highest stage.

No slight intended to Bouwmeester and Weiss – two excellent major leaguers who may receive Hall of Fame consideration when the skates are hung in the garage, but Heatley gives the Alamo City a hockey pedigree hitherto unknown, especially if he can get going offensively and help the Rampage get to the next level as well – a good run in the Calder Cup playoffs.

“I like it so far,” said Heatley of his short time in San Antonio after the Florida Panthers picked him up from Anaheim for Tomas Fleischman during the extended rodeo road trip, “Great group of guys. Good city. Good fans. It’s a good building. It was fun to play here tonight,” he added after the 4-1 win over the visiting Iowa Wild Saturday night.

There aren’t many hockey players who score 70 goals at any level in a season, but that’s what Heatley did with the Calgary Canucks in 1998 to put him on the radar as a 17-year old sniper in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. His dad, Murray, who was a prolific scorer for Freiburg in the German hockey league would produce a boy who would grow to 6-4 and put a ton of pucks past NHL goaltenders.

After a couple of seasons at the University of Wisconsin, Heatley was chosen by the defunct Atlanta Thrashers–now the reincarnated Winnipeg Jets–as the second overall pick in the 2000 NHL draft, and life became miserable for NHL netminders ever since.

Heatley’s fame escalated after a post-lock out trade to the Ottawa Senators in 2005, where he teamed up with Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza to form one of the most productive lines in league history. Heatley scored 50 goals in his first two seasons in Ottawa with 41 his third. The Senators got to the Stanley Cup finals 2007, but lost out to the team that traded him here – the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, as they were known then.

“I want to help this team, first and foremost. And also try and get my game back, get my legs going,” said Heatley. “Score some goals. I think the last three games I felt real good, had a lot of chances. Just trying to break the slump, try to get one and get going.”

John McFarland, who scored a pair of goals Saturday night to get the Rampage in the first game in SA in a month, said having Heatley in room is kinda cool.

“It’s huge. He’s a guy that’s been where you want to be and done things we all aspire to do. Team Canada…I grew up watching him play. It’s an honor to play with him. There’s lots of things I obviously want to learn from him. He’s going to be a huge help for our team this year.”

Heatley is Team Canada’s leading scorer, helped no doubt by his 12-goal, eight assist performance in 2008, and he’s played on two Olympic teams for Canada as well as various World Championships wearing the maple leaf of the land of the north.

Rampage coach Tom Rowe said having Heatley around has been a real upgrade from both a player and  personal perspective.

“What’s great about him is he is so poised with the puck. He really holds on to it, finds areas of the ice to throw it so guys can skate into it if he can’t get it to them tape-to-tape. That’s really stood out” said Rowe.

“The other piece is he is a really good guy. When you have a guy like that who has played as much as he has in the NHL and has scored 50 goals a couple of times, those guys coming down to the minors don’t except it well. Not that he’s happy, but he’s been unbelievable. He’s a lot of fun. The guys like him. He has a great sense of humor, so he’s been a real good fit and now he’s one of the boys. We have a great group here and he adds to it in a very positive way.”

Heatley realizes his rushes up ice are ticking away, and reflected on the pros who helped him get adjusted to life at the NHL level and is now passing it forward to Rampage players as well.

“Ray Ferraro, Bob Corkum, Tony Hrkac, guys like that towards the end of their careers took me under their wing and helped me a lot. Obviously it’s my turn now and it’s fun to be around these young guys now. They’re all great kids.”

Just what does that entail?

“How you treat the game. How you prepare. Those are the main thing when you’re a kid. A lot of these guys have been around a few years, but some are brand new to pro hockey,” said the four time NHL All-Star. “Just the travel, the amount of games. Sometimes you’re playing three-in-four, like we just did. It’s tough. You’ve got to find a way to battle through that. Some of the things you learn as you go through.”

But for now, Heatley’s here.

In San Antonio. Giving the Alamo City some long-deserved ice-cred. And hopefully a nice run in the upcoming Calder Cup race.

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