The long-expected retirement announcement by Daniel Alfredsson finally happened at a press conference in Ottawa this morning, officially putting an end to the 41-year old’s NHL career. Alfredsson signed a one-day contract with the Ottawa Senators, meaning he retires with the team for which he played during all but one of his eighteen NHL seasons. In addition to the ceremony of announcing the retirement in Ottawa and signing a one-day contract, Alfredsson will take part in tonight’s pre-game skate as his former teammates prepare to battle the New York Islanders. He will also take part in a ceremonial faceoff held to honour the most illustrious individual in Senators’ history.
The statistics of Daniel Alfredsson’s career tell much of the story, how he holds the Senators records for games played, goals, assists, and points. He recorded 18 goals and 49 points in his lone season with the Red Wings to lead the team…at the age of 41. Altogether, in 18 NHL seasons, Alfredsson played 1246 games, scored 444 goals and added 713 assists for a total of 1157 points. He notched 100 points in 124 playoff games. Alfredsson did not make his NHL debut until the age of 24, played the first decade of his career at the height of the dead puck era, and lost a season in his prime to the 2004-05 lockout, and half a season in 2012. Alfredsson won the 1996 Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year, was honoured for his charity work with the 2012 King Clancy Trophy, and won the 2013 Mark Messier Leadership Award. He is an Olympic gold and silver medalist, member of the All-Rookie team and Second All-Star team, and participated in six NHL All-Star games. See, the statistics are easy, and alone make the case for a borderline Hall of Fame career.
What is harder to quantify but easy to express is the emotional impact he had on the Ottawa Senators organization and the Ottawa community. Alfredsson captained the Senators for over a decade, and in every instance exhibited the kind of lead-by-example leadership, compete level, and unbroken passion for the game that leaves a lasting effect. While many critics placed blame for the team’s failures to break through and win a Stanley Cup in the 2000s squarely on Alfredsson’s shoulders, his burning will to win was so clearly evident game in and game out. Few plays in Senators history exhibit this more than in game 5 of the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals against the Anaheim Ducks. Senators defenseman Chris Phillips had accidentally scored on his own net to put the Ducks up 3-1, and Christoph Schubert had just taken an elbowing penalty. Having already scored a goal in the game, Alfredsson took the puck shorthanded and willed his way up the ice, fighting off a clutching Ryan Getzlaf to score a shorthanded marker and close the gap to 3-2. The Senators, of course, eventually lost the game and the Cup, but the passion and drive of the captain could not be questioned.
Alfredsson had the rare and precious opportunity to evolve and embody so many hockey archetypes, from long-shot 6th round pick to hotshot rookie, respected two-way forward to deadly 40-goal sniper, quiet captain to chippy antagonist, promising future star to 42-year old veteran. He has been the teenager unsure that he could ever be good enough for the NHL; the nervous rookie simply trying to carve out a role in a new league, in a new city, learning a new language. Alfredsson has been the young star caught behind Alexei Yashin and Alexandre Daigle, quietly and competently doing yeoman’s work; the newly christened captain trying to guide a new franchise to glory. Alfredsson has been the hardened veteran making sacrifices for the team, performing on the ice while calming fears of franchise relocation off it, deferring his own salary so the bankrupt Senators could afford to bring in new players. Alfredsson has been the catalyst of one of the most exciting and dynamic lines of the expansion era. And Alfredsson has been a veteran who was far from ageless but simply willed himself to fight off the hands of time. At nearly 42-years old, with a bad back and countless surgeries, the hands of time fought back.
Alfredsson was a true leader in the dressing room, the organization, and the community. For example, Alfredsson and his family welcomed a young Erik Karlsson into their home, forming a close bond with the future Norris winner and current captain of the franchise. Alfredsson clearly embraced his role as a mentor and the incident bodes well for his future in hockey management or coaching should he seek one. Alfredsson was a proud supporter of the NHLPA and played a key role in expressing the players’ concerns during the 2004-05 lockout without alienating opponents. Everyone who ever saw Daniel Alfredsson around the city had nothing but kind words to say. He would always make time for young fans, always willing to give of himself to brighten the days of others. He was a strong and vocal supporter of charity initiatives close to his heart, like the Royal Ottawa Hospital’s “You Know Who I Am” campaign designed to open up conversation about mental illness. If you’re looking for a way to celebrate Alfredsson’s return, consider donating to this important initiative.
Daniel Alfredsson’s career as a player is over. Even if only for a day, Alfredsson has come home.