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"SIT" 2003 Obituary


SITTLER o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-10-07 published
A close-knit community mourns death of National Hockey League player
Anthony REINHART visits the hometown of Dan SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER, a kid who just wouldn't quit.
By Anthony REINHART Tuesday, October 7, 2003 - Page A3
Elmira, Ontario -- On the main street of Elmira, three slabs of polished black granite rise from a fountain in Gore Park.
The monument, erected in 2001 after a string of car accidents, bears the names of those taken too young. The name Dan Snyder will now join a list that's grown too long, too quickly for this bucolic town of 9,600, better known for its maple syrup and Mennonites.
Mr. SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER, a 25-year-old forward with the Atlanta Thrashers of the National Hockey League, died Sunday night, six days after teammate Dany HEATLEY lost control of his speeding Ferrari and crashed on a narrow Atlanta street.
In the wider world of sport and celebrity, Mr. SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER will be remembered, perhaps only briefly, as the latest professional athlete to die in the fast lane.
But it's different here in his hometown, a short country drive north of Kitchener-Waterloo, where community ties are drawn tight by blood and strengthened by sidewalk familiarity.
Here, Mr. SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER will be remembered as a scrappy, hard worker who refused to listen when they said he was too skinny, too small, too whatever to play mid-level junior hockey, let alone in the National Hockey League.
"He just kept proving people wrong," his uncle, Jeff SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER, said yesterday outside the old brick house where Mr. SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER had lived with his parents.
"And we were hoping that he'd be able to do that again this week, but that's one battle he couldn't overcome, I guess."
The fight of Mr. SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER's life began on the night of September 29, after he and Mr. HEATLEY, the Thrashers' 22-year-old scoring sensation, left a social gathering with the club's season-ticket holders.
Mr. HEATLEY, according to Atlanta police, was driving his 2002 Ferrari 360 Modena at about 130 kilometres an hour when he lost control and struck a fence made of brick and wrought iron.
The car was sheared apart, and both men were thrown to the pavement. Mr. HEATLEY, who suffered a broken jaw and torn knee ligaments, faces several charges. Mr. SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER suffered a fractured skull and died of brain injuries without regaining consciousness.
People who knew him said he would have never driven so recklessly himself, that he preferred his pickup truck to the flashy cars that a fat paycheque affords.
"That's not Dan," said Bob CUMMINGS, who taught Mr. SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER in grade school and helps manage the Junior B Elmira Sugar Kings, for which Mr. SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER, his father and his uncle all played.
"He enjoyed life, but he respected life."
Standing in the Sugar Kings dressing room yesterday afternoon, Mr. CUMMINGS described a career rife with hints why Mr. SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER took so little for granted.
Even the Sugar Kings, one rung down from the level where the National Hockey League drafts most of its talent, had their doubts when he arrived for the 1994-95 season.
"By the end of the season, he was probably one of the best players we had," Mr. CUMMINGS said.
His hard work caught the eye of the Junior A Owen Sound Platers (now the Attack,) but just barely; they drafted Mr. SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER in the seventh round.
"He beat those odds and became the captain," Mr. CUMMINGS said, "probably the best captain they ever had."
Still not deemed good enough for the National Hockey League, Mr. SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER became a free agent and landed with the Thrashers' farm teams in Chicago and Orlando, where he helped both win league championships.
Atlanta finally called him up in the latter half of last season. He scored 10 goals and four assists in 36 games. "That isn't bad for a kid at the National Hockey League level who wasn't supposed to play Junior B," Mr. CUMMINGS said.
An ankle injury, resulting in surgery last month, was expected to delay Mr. SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER's start with the Thrashers this season. Still, he was excited, just five days before the crash, when team officials told him to find a place to live in Atlanta, his uncle said.
"He had really earned the respect of the people at the highest level of hockey in the last half of last year," Jeff SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER said.
The people of Elmira shared in that excitement, as they have several times since the SEILING brothers (Rod and Ric) and Darryl SITTLER from nearby St. Jacobs, made the big time decades ago.
Now, they are left mourning yet another one of their young.
Matthew SHANTZ, 13, paid his respects yesterday by walking into Central Source for Sports on the main street to order a Thrashers jersey, complete with Mr. SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER's name and number.
Matthew, who hopes to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs one day, said he met Mr. SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER a couple of times, since his father knows the SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER family.
"It's bad," he said simply, standing in front of the store, where plastic letters spelled out "We Remember Dan SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER" in the window, beneath a Thrashers jersey.
Mr. SCHNIEDER/SNIDER/SNYDER's funeral will be held in Elmira on Friday.

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