DETROIT – Erik Karlsson drives by Daniel Alfredsson’s house every day on the way to the rink, only it’s not really his house anymore.
Alfredsson has moved on to the Detroit Red Wings, but the former Ottawa Senators teammates have maintained the strong bond forged over the previous four years. Karlsson went over to the Alfredsson family’s new house in suburban Detroit on Tuesday night and Daniel’s wife, Bibbi, served a traditional Swedish meal.
“It was nice, for a change, to be back in that situation,” Karlsson said. “I came over as soon as we got here, all the kids were up and we had dinner together. Everybody didn’t eat at the same time because there was a lot of running around. It felt normal.”
Alfredsson served Karlsson “good life lessons” starting when the young defenceman lived with him in Ottawa. But the as Karlsson developed into a Norris Trophy-winner, he returned the favour in a major way.
“I think he is one of the reasons I’m still playing,” the 40-year-old Alfredsson said. “When he came in, he was a really good player from the beginning and I think I was able to be there for him and give him some guidance and help out. But he also brought a lot to the table with his energy and enthusiasm and, I guess, a great personality and fun to be around.
“He made me feel younger.”
Karlsson said it felt good to hear that but credited the longtime Senators captain for doing his own thing to remain in the NHL.
“I’ve seen how he was when I came and how he’s developed and how much more fun he thinks it is to play,” he said. “Obviously one of the biggest reasons I think is that his body’s healthy and he’s feeling good. He’s still doing the things he used to do when he was 30.”
At 23, Karlsson can still do plenty, and youthful exuberance is part of his style. He takes chances on the ice, and sometimes it pays off while others it backfires.
But he also grew up under the tutelage of Alfredsson, who said he’d be comfortable leaving Karlsson to watch his four sons, Hugo, Loui, Fenix and William.
“That’s good to hear,” Karlsson said. “I don’t have any kids myself yet, so I’m happy to hear that I’m doing well with them.”
Karlsson hopes to continue doing well on the ice without Alfredsson. Wednesday night was his first chance to play against his friend and mentor, after already getting used to life with the Senators in the post-Alfredsson era.
“Obviously it’s bit different, I think, but I also think it’s been going really well,” Karlsson said. “The transition has been probably as good as you would’ve hoped for.”
Karlsson said Alfredsson is just a phone call away, and the Swedes still communicate a lot even though they rarely see each other. Dinner, what Karlsson called a gathering of “just me and the big family,” was a reminder of the way things used to be.
Back when he first moved to North America and into Alfredsson’s house, there was no familiarity to lean on.
“I didn’t really know him back then,” Karlsson said. “All I can remember from my first few months there is that he’s a very generous man, and he’s very humble about everything.”
Clearly, like Alfredsson and Karlsson’s friendship, some things stay the same amid change.