I will acknowledge up front: I was never really a Daniel Alfredsson guy. You know how I’ve written here in the past that sometimes, as fans, there are just players we simply “don’t like”? Sometimes it could even be a player on our own team. It’s not fair—and it’s not personal. It’s just that for whatever reason, we don’t like the way they play or how they fit on a team. In “fan” terms, there’s just something we don’t like. (Leaf supporters at the ACC continue to boo the 40 year-old winger—not many 40 year olds get booed! By the way, my apologies if you were looking for a post on the Leaf win- narrow as it was in the end. I’ll just say they did what they had to against the gutsy, undermanned Sens. Kessel had a lot of jump early on and he wasn’t alone. Kadri scored again. Mark Fraser played close to 20 minutes and was plus 2, but things got a little uncomfortable there at the end. Still, the points sure will help in April. By all means post if you have some thoughts on the game. On to Boston.)
And that’s pretty much how I felt for years about Alfredsson. That ‘feeling’ wasn’t helped when we had to play the Senators all those years in the playoffs a decade and more ago. Intense feelings tend to flare up between fans, eh? (Imagine how the players must feel…) Then there was the hit from behind against Darcy Tucker (at least that’s how I saw it) in that pivotal playoff game. It was an edgy, maybe dirty play in the heat of the moment. That Alfredsson wasn’t penalized at all (I thought it should have been a five-minute major and a game misconduct) and immediately scored a key goal, just added insult to injury.
Then there was the mocking of our captain and his fellow countryman, Mats Sundin (the infamous fake ‘throwing his stick in the crowd’ routine during a game, after Sundin had done that very thing previously) which further infuriated Leaf fans.
Alfie just seemed to be one of those guys that was, as an opposing fan, an easy player to dislike. Maybe we found him annoying, arrogant, whatever. Maybe just that he played for Ottawa. Again, it may not have been fair, but that’s how a lot of fans felt.
I have to say, though, the Ottawa captain is one of those guys who I’ve come to respect as the years go by. Sometimes a player sticks around so long that you can’t help but admire the fact that they have been there night after night, in good times and bad, for their team. Alfredsson was a key cog when the Senators “got good” in the early 2000s (after years of being uncompetitive—and worse than that, in their early expansion years). He was marvelous as a Senator in those good playoff years, and especially so when they went all the way to the finals in 2007.
The guy has been Ottawa’s Mats Sundin. I don’t know if Ottawa fans will see that as a compliment, but I mean it as just that. He has been the face and the voice of that organization for so long I can barely remember what came before him. He has seen countless teammates come and go and made guys around him better. Beyond the on-ice stuff, you generally don’t hear anything remotely negative said about the guy. He has been committed to the franchise, the fans, the community and has been, in hockey terms, the ultimate loyal solider. It was the Senator captain who, just days ago, went after an opponent and took a major penalty because he believed his Senator teammate took a dirty hit.
That’s why it would be sad, in a way, if he finished his fine NHL career somewhere else. Too often, even the very best (heck, Gretzky played for what, four teams in his career? That's a magazine cover, right, that Gretzky signed for my eldest son when he was just a little guy more than 30 years ago) players have to retire somewhere else. Sometimes it’s a guy trying to hang on past his prime. Sometimes it’s about money or ownership. Sometimes it’s ego. Whatever, it would be a shame if Alfie ended up in, say, Boston or Philly. Not that he doesn't deserve a shot at a Stanley Cup, but like Sundin (who a lot of us hated see having to finish his career elsewhere), it may simply be his hockey destiny to have an Olympic Gold, among his other team-related international accomplishments, as a career highlight, rather than a Stanley Cup. It’s unlikely the Sens are winning a Cup in the next couple of years, as hard as they work.
And that would be OK. It won’t diminish Alfredsson’s legacy in my mind.
Guys get traded, I realize that. Not just Gretzky but the incomparable Bobby Orr finished his career elsewhere, in Chicago. Orr will forever be a Boston Bruin in my mind—and only a Bruin. But even he he couldn’t finish his career there. Mark Messier, Marcel Dionne, Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson. All those guys finished their Hall-of-Fame careers somewhere else.
You have to believe Alfredsson himself will receive serious Hall-of-Fame consideration. His raw “numbers” are pretty good (something like 400+ goals and 1,100 or so points, I think, maybe someone can fill in the blanks for me) but his inspirational leadership to the same team has meant a lot all these years in Ottawa. His playoff totals are pretty darn solid, too. He’s been a strong ‘plus’ player in his career.
I hope most (including Leaf supporters) "opposing" fans will give Alfredsson a rousing ovation if he ever publicizes his intention to end his career, and if there is an opportunity for a final appearance at the ACC. I have no problem ‘disliking’, in fan terms, an opponent- if they give me cause. But there’s something to be said for honouring a worthy opponent, too.
For me, Alfredsson has been that—in spades.