Alfie's leadership has defined Sens

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

Daniel Alfredsson is the player who gave the Senators credibility.

The occasion of Daniel Alfredsson Day in Ottawa is as good a time as any to think about why he matters so much. The 37-year-old was the Senators’ first homegrown star and the one who always puts the team first. The Sens’ progress goes hand-in-hand with Alfie’s as a player, a leader and an icon.

Hockey fans in Ottawa have been privileged to watch a team grow from its infancy in those horrible early years, to a franchise that competes for a playoff spot virtually every season and made it to the Stanley Cup final in 2007.

All throughout, the Senators have been willed by their unquestioned leader. Alfredsson has done it after coming back early from broken ribs, since he could not injure himself any worse. Alfredsson has played with just about any ailment you can imagine.

Alfredsson also stood up for his teammates during the Alexei Yashin years. After taking over as captain on Oct. 2, 1999 after Yashin took off due to a contract dispute, Alfredsson started to lead by example, in his quiet way.

When Yashin was late for a team meeting with then-coach Jacques Martin and the staff after a sweep vs. Toronto in 2001, Alfie spoke up.

“That just shows what (Yashin) thinks of the team,” said Alfredsson.

There have been bumps in the road — a tough negotiation with then-GM Pierre Gauthier in 1997, questions about his leadership in 2000 that led Alfredsson to think of giving up the “C.”

That’s life. Nothing looms larger than his OT winner vs. Buffalo in 2007 that sent the Senators to the Cup final. It put to rest so many questions about the team and let a city feel good about itself.

Perhaps the happiest I’ve seen Alfredsson was after he won an Olympic gold medal with Sweden in 2006. As he left the ice in Turin, he wore a wide smile and the gold around his neck.

There was a place across the street from the rink in Turin where we hung our hats for a beer during the Games. As we walked through the door, decked out in their Swedish garb were Alfredsson’s father Hasse and his brother Henric, who made a last-minute trip from Ottawa.

“I wanted to be here with my family,” said Henric, who flew out just a couple of days before the game. “I wasn’t going to miss this chance for anything in the world.”

Moments like that will be missed when Alfredsson hangs up his skates.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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