Heatley enters Battle of Ontario

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

By the time the 2004-05 edition of the Battle of Ontario plays itself out, gap-toothed star Dany Heatley might be missing even more of his pearly-white choppers.

The newest Ottawa Senator discovered just how rugged the rivalry with the hated Maple Leafs can be during the pre-season curtain raiser for both teams at the Air Canada Centre last night.

A capacity crowd. A lively scrap within the first 10 minutes of play. Bone-crushing checks. All this in an exhibition game.

No offence, but Atlanta never was like this.

"Just because I played down there, I wasn't in the dark concerning the Battle of Ontario," Heatley said, flashing his trademark smile. "Everyone knows about the history of it. It's going to be fun.

"In Atlanta, our biggest rival was Tampa Bay but, obviously, they did better than us."

With apologies to Thrashers and Lightning fans, that rivalry can't compare to the emotions and bitterness between the Sens and the Leafs.

Can you imagine some politician at Atlanta's city hall proposing a ban on Tampa jerseys at Philips Arena?

Only in the Battle of Ontario can a bureaucrat -- in this case, an Ottawa city councillor -- forward a motion to keep Leafs sweaters out of the Corel Centre, an incident that occurred in 2004.

Judging by his first taste of a Leafs-Sens encounter, Heatley, 24, certainly will be a huge concern for the Leafs during any head to head matchups this season.

Playing on a line with Jason Spezza, another superstar-in-the-making, Heatley registered his first shot on goal just 30 seconds after the opening faceoff. By the time the game was half over, he had registered an assist and was on the ice for each of Ottawa's first two goals.

"I think it will work well (with Spezza)," said Heatley, who added another assist in the third period as the Sens beat the Leafs 5-2. "It's getting better every day. He's a great passer who sees the ice so well.

"I think we are going to do a lot of good things together."

Life has been on the upswing for Heatley since he requested a trade from the Thrashers last month.

Heatley simply needed to get away from the place where a Sept. 29, 2003 car crash took the life of teammate Dan Snyder. Heatley was driving the car.

The Thrashers complied, sending Heatley to the Sens in exchange for Marian Hossa and Greg de Vries. It is a move that has left him rejuvenated.

"The attitude in Ottawa among players and fans is that we want to win the Stanley Cup this year," he said. "Yeah, there is pressure to win but I love that."


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