Daniel Alfredsson became the first modern-day Senators player to have his jersey number retired.
BY MURRAY PAM
With U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’ providing background music, it was a beautiful evening in Ottawa as the Senators organization recognized Daniel Alfredsson’s career by raising his No. 11 to the rafters of the Canadian Tire Centre, becoming their first modern-day Senators player to receive such an honor.
The familiar refrain of ‘Alfie’ resonated throughout the building one more time as the Senators current senior advisor of hockey operations was feted in front of approximately 75 family members and friends, many of whom made the trip from Sweden.
There were also video tributes the likes of former teammate Wade Redden. Redden spoke eloquently of his close friend, “Your legacy will be a benchmark for current and future Senators.”
Alfredsson’s speech was filled with touching moments, thanking his parents, brother Henric, sister Cecilia, his wife Bibi and four sons.
Alfredsson also displayed his wry humor, “I’ll never forget the Alfie chants. Although sometimes they were embarrassing, I loved it.”
He also quipped of forgetting his skates in Sweden when arrived for his first training camp. Alfredsson ended up wearing skates that were two sizes too big.
On the ice, Alfredsson was the consummate professional, endearing himself to fans and players alike. Off the ice he was candid and genuine, an icon to the Ottawa community.
Alfredsson’s stellar career was almost never meant to be. Bypassed by scouts in the 1994 draft until Ferguson, the Senators director of player personnel took a flyer – selecting the Frolunda junior 133rd overall.
No one could’ve predicted he would play 18 NHL seasons, including his first 17 in the city and country he now calls home.
Alfredsson’s imprint is emblazoned beginning to end in the Senators record book.
He was the first to reach 1,000 regular-season games in a Senators uniform, retiring No. 1 all-time on the team’s list with 1178 – since surpassed by Chris Phillips.
The 44 year old remains the club leader in goals (426), assists (682), points (1108), while the team’s playoff leader in games (121), goals (51), assists (49), points (100).
Senators fans will always cherish several of Alfie’s clutch scoring exploits, including notching the game-winning Eastern Conference final overtime marker, propelling his squad into the 2007 Stanley Cup final. His 400th goal was a dramatic overtime game-winner, while a stunning shorthanded effort with 29 seconds remaining against the Penguins forced overtime in a 2013 post-season game. Alfredsson also scored the NHL’s first-ever shootout goal.
Alfredsson was the Senators’ captain for 13 seasons, the most by a European-born player in NHL history.
Current Senator and former teammate Chris Neil noted Alfredsson led by example.
“Alfie was always the hardest working guy on the ice when he played, but not the most vocal. He laid it all out there. It’s not hard to lay your body on the line when the captain is doing this game in, game out.”
Alfredsson won the Calder Trophy in 1996 and played in six All-Star Games.
While known for having a quiet demeanor on the ice, Alfredsson wasn’t prone to controversy. In 2002, a shove or nudge to Maple Leafs left winger Darcy Tucker, led to Alfredsson immediately potting a playoff game-winner. Tucker suffered a shoulder separation on the play. Years later in the The Hockey News book ‘Blood Feuds,’ the Senator admitted, such a hit would’ve likely been called a penalty in today’s game.
Leafs fans have never forgiven Alfredsson for feigning a stick toss after Mats Sundin was suspended for lobbing his broken stick into the ACC crowd. Tongue-in-cheek, Alfredsson claimed frustration of breaking several sticks during the game.
Off the ice, Alfredsson was at times brutally honest. When asked if the club could mount a comeback after being down three games to one versus Pittsburgh in 2013, his “Probably not,” sparked an outcry.
When Alfredsson left for Detroit in 2013 it created shockwaves amongst the Senators fan base. In a prepared statement that summer, Alfredsson declared he wanted to “win a Stanley Cup” and thought he had a greater opportunity to do so with the Red Wings. Alfredsson also added the club’s offer wasn’t to his liking, especially after signing a ‘hometown deal’ with his previous contract.
Management and Alfredsson mended fences in 2014 when he signed a one-day contract to retire as a Senator. Two years ago, Alfredsson joined the team hockey operations department and is now senior advisor. The organization and the City are benefitting from it.
Alfredsson lends his support to the Boy’s and Girl’s Club Ringside for Boxing event and is a champion for mental health representing the Royal Ottawa Hospital. Alfredsson was honored by the league as the King Clancy Award-winner in 2012 for his humanitarian contributions. In June, Carleton University bestowed Alfredsson with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree for his charitable endeavors. While in November Alfredsson received the Meritorious Service Cross from Canada’s Governor-General.
Alfredsson continues to mentor burgeoning Senators players.
Ryan Dzingel accurately sums up his importance to the team and why he is so revered.
“I think you have to soak up anything he has to say. I was in a little lull scoring goals. Alfie went out of his way to talk to me. When you have a guy like that, you’re going to listen. He was not only a great player, he is a great human being.”
An Olympic gold and silver medal-winner who represented Sweden in 14 international events, Alfredsson’s next stop may be the Hockey Hall of Fame. Alfie is first-year eligible in 2017.