Swede dream for Alfie

Daniel Alfredsson is anxious for the opportunity to show off his Swedish roots. (Sun Media/Errol...

Daniel Alfredsson is anxious for the opportunity to show off his Swedish roots. (Sun Media/Errol McGihon)

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN -- The cranes in the shipyards stand idle for the most part these days.

But the structures which shoulder their way into the skyline are still a reminder of the hardscrabble roots of this city on the Kattegatt, an arm of the North Sea. It is a coast of barren rocks and cliffs where the gritty forefathers of this city worked their fingers raw making it Scandanavia's most important port city.

Daniel Alfredsson's hometown has reinvented itself somewhat. The cranes are now busiest over a new soccer stadium downtown. Manufacturing industries (Volvo and SKF), a new opera house, a fine reputation for the culinary arts and an energetic student population now define this city of about a million citizens, but cannot deny the impact the sea, the rocks and the hurly burly of a port town has had on the soul of its inhabitants down through the generations.

'BLUE COLLAR'

Alfredsson will arrive here today with his Senators teammates anxious for the opportunity to show off his roots.

"It is blue collar," he said not without a hint of pride. "The people are very friendly. They like to make jokes. It is a blue-collar town. It's a port town.

"Being able to go there with Ottawa, in my hometown...it will be emotional. I have a lot memories. I went to high school right across from the rink. I practised there a lot and skate there in the summers, usually."

He has grown into Ottawa's favourite athlete, the greatest of all Senators.

During the lockout, he helped lead Frolunda to the Swedish title.

Senators fans can thank Gothenburg for their captain, adopted as one of their own.

He is a reflection of the values he learned growing up first in an apartment in the Hisingem part of town and then in row housing in Partille; the son of Hasse, who worked a number of jobs -- carpenter, laying cable for the telephone company, helping troubled youth and as a manager of a sports facility -- and Margareta, a hairdresser and furniture store salesperson who quit working to raise her kids.

A relentless work ethic, stubborness and a love of all sports are the traits with which Alfredsson was ingrained growing up here.

HEADED TO STOCKHOLM

They will no doubt be on display all this week when the Senators practise at the Scandinavium, the home of the Frolunda Indians, before playing the Indians in an exhibition game Thursday night. Then it's off to Stockholm to open the regular season with back-to-back games against the Pittsburgh Penguins next Saturday and Sunday.

Alfredsson never allowed himself to think this type of experience would be possible. He was only a middling player when he started out with Frolunda and didn't see it happening even after he established himself in the NHL. He remembered seeing other teams come to Europe and talking about it with Senators president Roy Mlakar.

"I said, 'We should do something like that.' I never thought it would happen. And playing two regular-season games in Stockholm is going to be a lot of fun. Because it's regular-season games, the (Swedish fans) are really going to see NHL hockey up close. They go see regular Swedish hockey and they can compare."

MANY PARALLELS

It is interesting that Alfredsson will arrive here this afternoon representing Ottawa since there are many parallels between this city and Alfredsson's adopted home. They are both criss-crossed by canals in their downtown cores, have rich architecture and many parks and museums.

Both cities have issues.

Alfredsson is the captain of a team whose biggest rival is Toronto -- the biggest city in the country -- and there is no question that for years the Senators and their fans have always defined themselves in Hogtown's looking glass.

AREA CODES

It is not much different here, where Gothenburgers have always strived to measure up to the more cosmopolitain Stockholm on the other side of the country. Stockholm is the self-styled "capital of Scandanavia," a title which must rankle other Swedes the way Toronto's "Centre of the Hockey Universe," leaves Canadians outside the 416 area code rolling their eyes.

People here apparently refer to those in Stockholm as "08ers," referring to that city's area code (does that make Gothenburgers 08ers haters?)

Two towns, a lot in common.

This week, Alfredsson is the toast of both.


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