Friday, December 3, 2010

Beneath Their Dignity

Ottawa is Canada's capital city. It's a pretty place with an interesting history.

But the way the locals reacted to the arrival of the San Jose Sharks' Dany Heatley, you'd think Ottawa had changed its name to Podunkville.

Heatley was traded from Ottawa to San Jose before the 2009-10 NHL season. Far be it from me to explain the whole situation, but suffice it to say Heatley wanted out of Ottawa (and away from coach Cory Clouston). He managed to enrage not only the fans in Ottawa for demanding a trade, but also the folks in Edmonton for refusing to be traded to the Oilers.

Last night's game between the Sharks and Senators marked Heatley's first visit to Ottawa since the ugly breakup. It happened to be the same night that LeBron James came back to Cleveland for the first time since jilting the Cavaliers, and King James of the Miami Heat didn't take any more heat than the Heater took in Ottawa.

Heatley got not only the ritual booing whenever he touched the puck (a common NHL fan behavior), but an earful of chanting and an eyeful of angry posters. Among the clever chants: "Heatley Sucks!", "Trai--tor!", and "F-U Heatley!" The posters weren't any better, and one enterprising group of Ottawans disrupted the game by heaving a bunch of Senators jerseys bearing Heatley's name and number onto the ice.

I guess I expected this sort of thing from Cleveland, a city with an inferiority complex wider than the formerly-flaming Cuyahoga River. But Ottawa? I thought you were a little above that sort of thing.

Oh, by the way: Heatley had an assist, drew two penalties leading to Sharks power-play goals, and had the last laugh in a 4-0 Sharks win. By the end of the game, the booing was not for Heatley, but for the home team. A perusal of the fan comments on Internet bulletin boards suggests the real anger in Ottawa is with the Senators, who are limping along, closer to last place in the conference standings than first.

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