We should know that, when the end of their playing career arrives for most NHLers, it does not arrive in the fairy tale format. For every Raymond Bourque, there are hundreds of guys who experience a less-than ideal exit from a league most never want to leave.
If that’s how it has to be for Daniel Alfredsson – and this Detroit Free Press report suggests that could very well be the case – the 42-year-old has nothing to be ashamed of. If his ailing back can’t take any more punishment, it says nothing about his competitive desire or legacy. It only speaks to Father Time’s eventual dickishness to us all. And if Alfredsson has played his final NHL game, there’s little doubt he’ll be regarded as a terrific talent on the ice and one of the sport’s best ambassadors away from it.
Yeah, he didn't get to celebrate a Cup win the way fellow good guy Teemu Selanne did. But that's no reason to be sad about his retirement. There are too many teams and too few Stanley Cups awarded every season to adequately reward all the talents that ache to win at the game's highest levels.
No, now's the time for Alfredsson's fans in Ottawa and Detroit to celebrate the contributions of one of hockey's most fundamentally decent human beings.
In 18 seasons (all but one of them in a Senators uniform), Alfredsson proved to be not only an excellent player – he scored more than 30 goals four times, and more than 40 two times – but an inspirational member of his community. When he made the decision to leave the Sens in the summer of 2013 for what he perceived to be a better shot at a Cup, Alfredsson held his press conference at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre in the hope he could draw attention to helping others at the same time he was talking about himself. Being conscientious wasn't a contrivance for the Swede; his commitment to the community was genuine, which was why, when he did leave Ottawa, there was no real anger from the fan base. He'd earned their respect, and they respected his decision.
If Alfredsson does officially hang up his skates in the coming weeks, the laurels that come his way about his impact on the ice will be legitimate. In 1,246 career regular-season games, he posted 713 assists and 1,157 points. He won an Olympic gold medal with Sweden in 2006. He had a 43-goal, 103-point year in 2007. The media didn’t just rave about him because he was unfailingly accommodating with his time. The raving was about his play, about the superb leader he was, about him being the guy who took hometown financial discounts to stick around a city that others wanted out of at the first opportunity.And the league recognized it as well, bestowing the King Clancy Trophy and Mark Messier Leadership Award on him in recent years
In the end, his last grasp at the ultimate team glory fell short in Detroit. But that happens. That's not entirely in his control. What really matters is that few NHLers ever were better team players – both for their employer and for the community in which they played – than Daniel Alfredsson.
Inside and outside of a hockey arena, there's no more ideal legacy than that.