Dany Heatley became Canada’s top goal-scorer after a hat trick in the world hockey championship opener on Friday and claimed the mantle of his country’s greatest international player on Sunday with four more points.
Success on the international stage, however, has depended on failure on the domestic front.
As Heatley’s NHL teams have failed to go deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs, it has allowed him to take part in five world championships.
Heatley does not hide the fact he would rather be playing at an NHL rink this week but the worlds have always represented a consolation prize for the Ottawa Senators winger, who has turned his disappointment into two gold medals and a silver.
“I’ve always had fun,” Heatley told reporters in Halifax. “I think that’s the thing for me.
“Any time you play for Canada and you get in this tournament you come here to win. I’ve been in a few tournaments and had a chance to play with a lot of great players over the last few years.”
If Canada ends the tournament with a medal, Heatley will join goaltender Sean Burke as the most decorated Canadian at the worlds with four medals.
With his four points in Canada’s 7-0 win over Latvia on Sunday, Heatley moved one point ahead of Team Canada general manager and former NHL superstar Steve Yzerman (39 points) as the country’s all-time leading scorer at the tournament.
Playing on Canada’s top line alongside Anaheim Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf and Columbus Blue Jackets Rick Nash, Yzerman’s record of 20 points at a single world championship could also be under threat as could Ryan Smyth’s mark for most games.
If Canada advances to the gold medal final on May 18 and Heatley plays in all nine contests it would bring is world championship total to 43 games leaving him second only to Smyth with 59.
“I’m more than happy to see Dany go by me,” said Yzerman. “They (Heatley’s line) have the combination of size and skill and even speed. On paper it looks like that should work because you have all the elements of a good line.
“We expect them to have the ability to be a dominant line.”
The fact Heatley is on the verge of putting his name alongside nearly every meaningful world championship mark for Canada does not come as a surprise.
The 2002 Calder trophy winner as NHL rookie of the year, Heatley has developed into one of the league’s most consistent offensive threat scoring 41 goals for the Senators this season after back-to-back 50-goal campaigns.
“He’s always been a gifted offensive player but he’s really using his quickness in small spaces to score now,” said Team Canada head coach Ken Hitchcock.
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