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Heatley not concerned with public perception

by Dan Rosen
Dany Heatley is moving on and loving life in San Jose, remaining unmoved by the public opinion that his reputation has taken a serious hit after a tumultuous and controversial summer that included trade demands and trade rejections.

Heatley's approach may seriously irk the passionate fans in Ottawa and Edmonton, but that's not what he is trying to do, nor is it something he even cares about at this point. His focus, plain and simple, is on helping the Sharks win games and performing well enough to hopefully get a call from Hockey Canada sometime in December.

"I don't know if I needed a fresh start, but after the summer it was nice that something happened," Heatley, who was dealt from Ottawa to San Jose on Sept. 12, told "If you want to call it a fresh start that's fine, but it's not so much that I had a down year and needed to go somewhere else to have a fresh start. There were issues that I felt made it best that we go our separate ways. All I can say is I'm happy to be a Shark."

He has been since the moment he arrived in the Sharks' dressing room for training camp.

Heatley said he received phone calls from various new teammates soon after the trade was announced. After spending a few relaxing days in Kelowna, B.C. waiting for his visa to come through -- he said the time allowed him to refocus his attention on getting ready for camp -- Heatley arrived in San Jose as a welcome addition to the Sharks' family.

He's been playing on Joe Thornton's wing and through nine games has 6 goals, 6 assists and a plus-3 rating. He comes across as relaxed, poised and genuinely content with how his summer unraveled and eventually ended.

Heatley asked for a trade out of Ottawa for various reasons and then nixed a deal Senators GM Bryan Murray had in place with the Oilers because he did not want to play in Edmonton either. He had to explain himself in a press conference from Kelowna in late August prior to heading to Calgary for Hockey Canada's Olympic orientation camp. He then had to answer more questions about his trade demands and such during the camp.

Heatley said at the time that he was willing to go to training camp in Ottawa if a trade couldn't get done, but everybody knew that was never going to be a real option for him or the Senators.

"The minute the trade happened I got three or four phone calls right away from guys welcoming me to the team and excited to have me there," Heatley said. "That was a great feeling after a summer like that, to be accepted right away. No question (it was a huge weight lifted). I could just worry about playing the game and then getting to know my teammates and the style we play."

At no point this summer did Heatley express concern about his reputation, a stance he reiterated during his exclusive interview with last week while the Sharks were in New York to take on the Islanders and Rangers.

"For the simple fact that these reputation things just came out in the last three months," Heatley said. "I played seven years in the League and my reputation has always been good, I thought, with my teammates and everyone I played against. It's humorous that in three months, because of some people in Ottawa, all of a sudden your reputation takes a hit. So, no, I'm not concerned about it. I've said it before; everybody I have played with would say I'm a good teammate."

The Sharks have seen nothing to convince them otherwise.

"It's one of those things where the past is past," Patrick Marleau told "He's in our room, part of our team, here to win and help us so why not make him feel welcome and make his first few days or month the best possible experience he could have.

"Obviously those things (trade request) shouldn't have been in the media to start with, and once it does get into the media you don't know who to believe or what to believe. And, for hockey players, dealing with media so much, we kind of know it goes with the territory."

The general consensus was that Heatley was unhappy in Ottawa because he wasn't comfortable in coach Cory Clouston's system and his playing time was also cut toward the end of last season.

Well, he's happy with the up-tempo system coach Todd McLellan runs and is thriving while playing on Thornton's wing.

"For me, his biggest attribute or skill that he maybe does better than a lot of other people is he can shoot the puck in traffic," McLellan told "He sets his body up well so there could be sticks or people draped on him but he still gets his shot off. He's got a quick release and somehow muscles his way through it and knows where the puck is going when he gets it off. That's been a real good asset for us."

Heatley insists his happiness has nothing to do with the anonymity a hockey player can have in San Jose as opposed to a media-driven Canadian city like Ottawa. He said the media was not a factor in his desire to get out of Ottawa or in his decision to nix the trade to Edmonton.

"I have an issue with that," Heatley said. "I don't think it's as black and white as that. People want to make it that story, but the media was not a huge deal in Ottawa. I could care less if there were 10 guys or two guys in the room. I wanted to go somewhere, and I ended up somewhere, where there is a lot of pressure on us.

"I think there is more pressure on us here than we had on the team in Ottawa."

The pressure stems from expectations and the Sharks' failures in the postseason. Last year's Presidents' Trophy winners were knocked out of the playoffs after just six games.

"Writers and the media are going to say the same thing, 'Great regular season and tough playoffs,' until this team does well in the playoffs," Heatley said. "We all know that pressure is there and we know we can't do anything about it other than just play to the best of our abilities. It's a long season until the playoffs start, so we have to focus on ourselves getting better. Once the playoffs come, we'll see. That's all we can do."

And all Heatley can do is play a part in all of that.

If they don't like him in Ottawa, Edmonton or anywhere else, so be it. Heatley has too much on his plate now to worry about the past, even if it's still fresh in a lot of minds.

"The moment I got there (to San Jose) it was a very easy room to come into, great guys and a great organization," Heatley said. "Everybody really welcomed me and treated me well and that made it really easy for me to just come in and worry about playing hockey."

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