Ottawa·Analysis

Daniel Alfredsson's return: Home is where the heart is

The longest captain in Ottawa Senators history will take to the ice on Thursday for the warm-up, in front of the same fans he entertained for 17 seasons.

Alfredsson, 41, will skate in the warm-up with the Ottawa Senators

Daniel Alfredsson celebrates his team's go-ahead goal against the Buffalo Sabres with Alexei Yashin during second period playoff action at the Corel Centre, as it was then named, on Friday, April 23, 1999. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

Daniel Alfredsson’s hockey career was a roller coaster of emotions that took an entire city of passengers along with it, and that ride will culminate in Thursday night’s ceremony to honour the long-time Ottawa Senators captain.

One week before his 42nd birthday, Alfie, as this city deemed him long ago, is expected to announce his retirement from the National Hockey League.

Alfredsson will then be honoured in front of the same fans he entertained for 17 seasons, stepping onto the Kanata ice for one last time in a Senators uniform.

No matter what happened in the days leading up to and following his departure on July 1, 2013, the native of Gothenburg, Sweden is and always will be an adopted Ottawan. No athlete has given more to this city before, during or after work hours.

The memories stretch through the best seasons of this franchise’s 23-year history. His look changed from a rounded Jofa helmet to long locks, but his mentality remained the same.

Alfredsson was always able to put his team, and what felt like an entire city, on his back. That was Alfie as Ottawa knew him — from his Calder Trophy in 1996, to leading the Sens to the Stanley Cup finals in 2007, to playing in the playoffs with a torn knee ligament one year later.

Philanthropy can't go unnoticed

Off the ice, Alfie has worked with The Royal Mental Health Centre and Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. His commitment to The Royal has been so strong, he even said goodbye to Ottawa from the hospital’s campus after signing with Detroit.

His generosity can’t be summarized, though, without mentioning the time Alfredsson handed over some of his own paycheque in 2003. The team was strapped for cash, so the money he provided helped Ottawa acquire Vaclav Varada at the trade deadline.

Alfie always followed his heart, sometimes to his own detriment.

Daniel Alfredsson served as captain of the Ottawa Senators between 1999 and 2013. (Fred Chartrand/The Associated Press)
His commitment to Ottawa meant he was perennially under-paid as he played for a small-market franchise. His average annual salary only exceeded $5 million twice — with the Sens in 2003-04 and last year in Detroit.

Now, due to a nagging back injury that’s plagued him for several seasons, Alfie has decided to come home and is expected to call it quits. But quitting is not in his nature.

Giving up is probably the most difficult decision of his career. His hands, void of a Stanley Cup ring, are ready to grab his skates one more time to hang them up for good.

The roller coaster ride is over. Whether he finds a niche in the Senators organization is the next question, but no matter what happens, this city couldn’t have asked for anything more out of No. 11.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jamie Long

Digital Journalist

Jamie Long is a digital journalist with CBC Ottawa. You can tweet him @cbcjlong or reach him at jamie.long@cbc.ca.

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