MANNHEIM, Germany -- Dany Heatley doesn't remember much about his younger days growing up in Germany. After all, he was just 3-years-old when his father retired from Freiburg ERC of the German Bundesliga and moved his family home to Calgary.
Heatley's mother is German and his father is Canadian, and since Heatley was born in Freiburg, he carries dual citizenship. So with the San Jose Sharks having this four-day visit to Mannheim that includes an exhibition game Saturday and a free day Sunday, it wouldn't be shocking to hear Heatley say he would use the trip to reconnect with his past and learn about his heritage. Or perhaps strap on a pair of lederhosen and dance a polka.
But while his bloodlines are rooted in Germany, his heart belongs to Canada.
Heatley's return to his homeland with the Sharks doesn't carry the same weight and meaning as it does for goaltender Thomas Greiss, who was born in Fussen, played in the DEL and didn't leave for North America until he was 20. Greiss said he can look at Heatley and distinguish between his Canadian and German sides pretty easily.
"When I look at his soccer skills, he's Canadian," Greiss said. "But he likes German beer, so it's all right."
Heatley said his mother wasn't too big of an influence on him growing up in terms of getting in touch with his German side. But there was one aspect of German culture he didn't mind having pushed down his throat -- literally.
"Just cooking. She's a real good cook," Heatley said. "That was probably the biggest influence from over here."
Despite his detachment from most things German, this trip to Mannheim will be special for Heatley. It will allow him to spend time with his brother, Mark, who is entering his third season of German league hockey.
After two seasons with Munich, where he had 18 goals and 33 assists in 73 games, Mark signed with Freiburg, the team his father, Murray, called home for the final four seasons of his career before taking his wife and 3-year-old Dany home to Canada. Murray was quite the goal scorer for Freiburg, racking up 177 goals in 179 games for the team. It's almost as if he hung up the skates too soon, but Dany said his father's decision to retire and come home had nothing to do with him.
"I think that was always there plan when he was done, to come back to Canada," Heatley said.
So far in four games this season, Mark is looking like a chip off the old block with 3 goals and 3 assists for Freiburg. He'll also be at SAP Arena for the Sharks' exhibition game with Adler Mannheim.
"He's going to come to the game (Saturday)," Dany said of his brother. "That's the big thing. I get to see him a little bit because I don't get to see him during the regular season. It'll be nice to see him. He's off to a good start this year. He had a real good summer working out. He's always been in good shape. Hopefully he'll have a big year."
Heatley's love for Germany lies with his family, not with the country itself. Just ask Greiss, who said he did his best to convince Heatley to come play for Germany in international play, but his pleas didn't get the job done. Heatley came away with an Olympic gold medal on Canadian soil, while for Greiss -- well, there's always Oktoberfest.
"I told him we have the better beer, the better food, but he wanted a gold, so, you know," Greiss said before trailing off.
Turns out Heatley chose wisely.
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