All in the family for Alfie

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN -- Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson knew he wanted to be a professional hockey player when he was seven.

When he was getting closer to fulfilling the dream he described in a school essay, he almost quit.

Hasse Alfredsson, Daniel's dad, shuffles his crutches under the table (he recently had hip replacement surgery) on the front deck of the modest Alfredsson family home in Patille, a suburb of Gothenburg.

It's cool and cloudy, but the expansive deck -- built by Hasse, once a carpenter by trade -- and the nice view it affords in this hilly, well-treed neighbourhood are too inviting to pass up. Hasse is picking through his memories of Daniel's childhood and hockey career at a table on the deck while Daniel's mom, Margareta, sits nearby in her wheelchair (she is battling a neuro-muscular disorder).

Daniel is just inside the open door to the house with younger brother Henrik, a member of the 1999 Memorial Cup-champion 67's and now an Ottawa policeman.

Hasse recalled the resolve and determination Daniel showed early in life and which Senators fans have come to admire and respect.

"Even the teacher believed him when he wrote that essay about wanting to be a hockey player because he was so determined," said Hasse. "When we were going to the practice, he would ask: 'Dad, do you think I have a chance to play for this team?' He would ask if he could take another step and I told him, 'It's up to you.' I know so many people in hockey here in Sweden, but I never told anybody they had to take him. He's done it all by himself. Sometimes you can get it easy because somebody is helping you. He's always been struggling, always fighting for his position, always."

Ten years after that essay foretold the future, Hasse, who had coached his son up the ranks, was almost the cause of Daniel quitting.

When Alfredsson was 17 and went to play for Molndal, Hasse was asked to become an assistant coach.

"Don't you want me to play hockey anymore?" Daniel asked his puzzled dad.

"Yes, I want you to," replied Hasse.

"Then you can't be coach," said his son.

"(Daniel) said: 'If he's going to coach me, I'll put my skates in the closet,'" said Margareta. Daniel didn't want anyone to think he got anything because he was a coach's son.

The son appears to have inherited his dad's sturdy bearing and skilled hands. Hasse was a good soccer player ("I could keep the ball in the air for 20 minutes," he said) and played hockey, too, in the lower divisions. "But I had two kids and I couldn't live on it," he said.

Daniel, a self-admitted average student ("I got threes," he said. Out of four? "Nope. Five."), started out in school to become a carpenter like his dad, but switched to economics at Burgardens high school.

The benefits of a good day's work were an early lesson.

Hasse used to drop his son to school at 7 a.m. each day and Daniel had his own set of keys to the dressing room at the rink, where a daily hockey school was part of his high school curriculum. He would sleep in the dressing room until the coach arrived.

Alfredsson worked to be a success at each level, always wondering if the latest rung would be his highest.

He has become a respected leader in the NHL in large part to his work ethic. It was rooted in the streets of Hisingem, another nearby suburb, among the townhomes where he grew up, running in a pack of six friends.

"They went everywhere together," said Margareta. "Maybe not on the toilet, but they were together all the time."

The family moved into this modest bungalow (one level is best to accommodate Margareta's wheelchair) around the time Daniel left here to play for the Senators in 1995.

There's a nice flat-screen TV in the living room in front of a leather couch and chairs. The kitchen is cozy and there's a sauna off the bathroom. "(The sauna) is more common than a pool here," said Hasse during a tour of the house. "And I'm not one for fancy things."

He and Margareta have welcomed members of the media into their home. Hasse declined requests to be interviewed until last year. It turns out the dad learned something from one of his sons.

"I didn't want to make my kids embarrassed, but Daniel said do just what you like. He's very good at that. Even with his own kids. He always gives them a chance to try. If they ask, 'Can I take a picture with this camera?' He says, 'Just do it.' "

Hasse and Margareta were supportive of all three Alfredsson children -- there is also Cecelia, a daughter -- who were active in sports. Cecelia was a good soccer player and Henrik excelled in hockey.

"I don't know how many games I've seen and how many (uniforms) I washed," said Margareta. "I miss it sometimes, the boys with their (jerseys) down to their knees. It was a great time."

The parents are proud Alfredsson has stepped up to support Cecelia, who has been dealing with generalized anxiety disorder. Alfredsson is the face of the Royal Ottawa Hospital's You Know Who I Am campaign (youknowwhoiam.com), which is working to remove the stigma from mental illness.

"If you have a sore soul and your mental health isn't good enough, you can't see it," said Hasse. "My daughter had problems. You can break a leg. You can break your soul, too, but you don't see the bandage or the cast or use crutches. You can still walk, but you can't see it."

'VERY BIG HEART'

"He has a very big heart," said Margareta, shooting a glance across the table. "Hasse has no heart ... I'm only kidding."

"All the best things he has are from his father. All the bad things are from his mother," said Hasse, teasing back.

Other stories are told.

Earlier yesterday, Alfredsson signed autograph after autograph and had pictures taken with fans.

In 1981, when Daniel was nine, the world hockey championships came to Gothenburg. Daniel was selected to be one of the kids to carry a flag on the ice.

Recalled Hasse: "One day he said to me, 'Dad, can I take my autograph book with me?' and I said yes. He asked (Vladimir) Petrov of the Russian team for an autograph and he pushed Daniel aside. This is something we talked about. I said, 'If you're ever a player, don't be like that.' "

Alfredsson's not like that.

In a few minutes on a deck under cloudy skies, you can begin to understand why.


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