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Star player Heatley praises Swiss league

Dany Heatley, at practice before suffering an injury swissinfo.ch

The Canadian, Dany Heatley, is considered to be one of the best ice hockey players in the world.

This content was published on November 9, 2004 - 16:04

Only 23 years old, he has already won a number of awards as a player for the Atlanta Thrashers in the National Hockey League and for Canada’s national team.

Heatley walked off with the Calder trophy in 2002 as the NHL’s best rookie, but a car crash put his career in jeopardy only one year later.

The player suffered serious injuries after crashing his Ferrari into a wall while his passenger - teammate Dan Snyder - died from his injuries. Heatley has been charged with vehicular homicide in the case.

After missing several months for rehabilitation, Heatley returned to ice hockey, leading the Canadian team to victory at the 2004 World Championships in Prague.

He was also a member of the Canadian team that won hockey’s World Cup in September.

Heatley chose to come to Bern to play this season in the Swiss league during the NHL lockout.

He suffered an eye injury in a game against Geneva on November 6, and is expected to be out at least until Christmas. swissinfo spoke to him during the practice before the Geneva game.

swissinfo: Why did you choose to come to the Swiss league and play for Bern?

Dany Heatley: I think Bern is a beautiful city. It’s a good fit for me. Great team, great arena, great fans and a beautiful country. I’m having a lot of fun here.

swissinfo: How are the crowds different than at NHL games?

D.H.: “They [Swiss fans] are singing all game and beating drums and having a good time.

swissinfo: What do you think about the quality of play here compared to the NHL?

D.H.: Obviously the NHL is the best league in the world but this league is fast, and there are a lot of good Swiss players here and a lot of great players in general. It’s tough to win here.

swissinfo: If the NHL season is cancelled, are you ready to play the entire season in Switzerland?

D.H.: Things don’t seem to be going to well [in North America] right now and I think a lot of guys are choosing the European option and having a good time and experience over here.

swissinfo: So you’ve committed yourself to staying the whole season in Bern if the NHL season is cancelled.

D.H.: I’ll be here for the whole season if the NHL doesn’t start up again.

swissinfo: How do you respond to criticism from within Switzerland that NHL players who have come over here to play are treating the Swiss league like a holiday camp?

D.H.: I don’t agree with that at all. They have to understand that this is a pretty good league and guys are playing hard. In some cases they have unrealistic expectations of some of the foreigners.

To ask for four or five points from a guy every night anywhere in the world is asking too much. As a foreigner you can only go out and play your best.

swissinfo: Some of the foreign players who are playing here because they are not good enough for the NHL have lost their jobs to players like yourself. One player has even called you scabs. How do you respond to that criticism?

D.H.: It’s like anywhere in the world. You go where you can find work, no matter if you are taking someone else’s job or not. I think you feel bad for them, but at the same time, if they were in our situation I think they would be doing the same thing.

You can’t think about it. It’s an unfortunate situation for everybody involved with the NHL shutting down but when something like that happens, you have to take the next step.

swissinfo: Some players have said that they are willing to accept a salary cap as demanded by the NHL owners. Would you accept a salary cap?

D.H.: I would never accept a salary cap. It goes against everything our union stands for and a free market and I think the vast majority of players in the league won’t accept that.

swissinfo-interview: Dale Bechtel

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