Atlanta Thrashers Pay Tribute to Fallen Teammate Dan Snyder In Elmira

Peter BojarinovAnalyst IOctober 19, 2009

ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 21:  Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the Atlanta Thrashers against the Carolina Hurricanes during a preseason game at Philips Arena on September 21, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Today, the Atlanta Thrashers were in Elmira, Ontario, to pay tribute to a former Thrasher, the late Dan Snyder.

The entire team rode the bus after the game in Buffalo to Elmira, Snyder's hometown. It was obvious that being at the rink in Elmira meant plenty to this organization.

"He was one of our guys. He's always going to be in our hearts. I'm glad we came here today," said Ilya Kovalchuk.

The only two remaining Thrashers who were on the team with Snyder are Ilya Kovalchuk and Slava Kozlov.

Snyder died six days after sustaining injuries in a tragic car accident on Sept. 29, 2003.

Dany Heatley, who was driving the vehicle, was injured but survived the crash.

Just six years ago, Dan Snyder and his father Graham had talked about having a new arena in the area around Elmira. "Dan at the time told me, 'I'll do whatever you need to help out.' So this day is very special," said Graham.

The Snyder family is invited to Atlanta annually to present the “Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy,” which is awarded to the Thrashers' unsung hero, the player who best embodies perseverance, dedication, and hard work without reward or recognition, so that his team and teammates might succeed.

The Atlanta Thrashers organization might not yet be championship caliber, but the team's class makes you feel like they should be.

Thrashers GM Don Waddell’s NHL club practiced at the new Dan Snyder Memorial Arena rink in front of a packed house of approximately 1,500. Fans were extremely excited to watch the NHL practice and then meet the players during an autograph session.

"For us to be able to come back here today and give back to this community, you know Dan is here today watching over us," Waddell told ESPN.com, his voice barely audible over the frenzied atmosphere during practice. "It means a lot to us being here."

"They're part of our family," said the GM. "It's something that's going to last with us forever."

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