A week before his 42nd birthday, Daniel Alfredsson announced his retirement from the National Hockey League. He made the announcement in Ottawa, as if there could be any other place for it, and he did so after taking one last warm-up with the club he spent 17 seasons with.
Born in Gothenburg, Sweden, in December of 1972, Alfredsson made his way to the Ottawa when he was drafted 133rd overall in the sixth round of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. The Senators’ John Ferguson had his eye on the Swede and pushed for him, so the team listened.
In Alfie’s first NHL season in 1995-1996, he won the Calder Memorial Trophy. He never looked back. In 1996-1997, he helped the Senators to their first playoff berth in the modern era and finished second on the club in scoring.
But by 1997-1998, he was missing the beginning of the year thanks to an ugly contract dispute. He demanded a trade after the Senators wanted to pay him less than Alexei Yashin. Ottawa offered him a four year deal and Alfie signed, leading to a standing ovation upon his return to the ice in October of 1997.
From that point on, the Senators were Alfredsson’s team. He was captain for 13 out of his 17 seasons, so it’s no wonder he signed a ceremonial “contract” on Thursday morning that ensured he’d retire with Ottawa. There was, after all, that hiccup when he signed a one year deal with the Detroit Red Wings for the 2013-2014 season. Those are distant memories now.
“Without question Daniel has been the greatest player that this city has ever seen in many, many different ways,” Senators owner, governor and chairman Eugene Melnyk said. “As a player on the ice, as a leader on the ice. As someone who interacted with the fans any time. He was always available. For any charitable work, he was always available. For media, he was always there. That’s a rare commodity to have in an organization like ours.”
Speaking of rare commodities, Alfredsson leaves the game with a number of serious accomplishments in his back pocket. He is the only player from that 1994 draft to hit 1000 points, for one. Patrik Elias still has a shot at becoming the second, with 994 points to his name thus far.
And Alfie has the second-most points from a Swede in the NHL, with Mats Sundin being the first. He made six All-Star teams and he scored 25 shorthanded goals for the Senators, a franchise record. His 49 playoff goals are also a franchise record, plus he has 51 post-season assists – a franchise record, of course.
Alfredsson holds Senators records in a lot of categories, naturally. Over the course of his 1,246 game NHL career, he scored 444 regular season goals and added 713 assists. In 124 playoff games, he had 101 points.
More than numbers, Alfredsson represented a rise in prominence for the Ottawa Senators. Under his leadership, they were taken seriously. They were even contenders, a sometimes dangerous presence. After all, who could forget Alfredsson’s overtime goal in Game Five of the Sens’ 2007 post-season series against the Buffalo Sabres? They made the Stanley Cup Final thanks to that goal.
“Wait until you see this kid,” Ferguson apparently said of a young Alfredsson when Ottawa was looking at prospects for the 1994 draft. He couldn’t have been more right.