Alfie, we've been lucky to have you

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:37 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- It is like they say, you know. Playing in a hockey crazy market is not for everyone.

Especially one that surrounds a struggling team.

"It's so different. It's so much more laid back, relaxed," defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo said earlier this week when asked how he has enjoyed St. Louis since being traded to the Blues from Toronto Nov. 24. "You can enjoy yourself away from the rink, not having to read about certain things. The demand is still there to win, to put a winning product on the ice, but it's totally different.

"The one thing I enjoy the most is coming in the room after practice and not worry about getting out quickly, staying in there an extra 15 minutes and answering a bunch of questions over and over again. Just being able to sit back in my stall and crack jokes with my teammates. We still have our media coverage here, and they do a great job of it, but it's nowhere near the extent of what you're dealing with in a Canadian city, which is great for Canadian cities too, but you asked ... "

And as for the daily "why" questions a player on a struggling Canadian team gets from those damn reporters?

"That's tough," Colaiacovo said. "That can take a toll on a team and wear them down, definitely ruin a player's confidence."

Daniel Alfredsson is a hard core. He can handle it. His confidence is fine. He usually enjoys the media scrums around his locker every day. He does his best to answer the "why" question when it's asked five different ways after practice, and he upholds all his duties as Senators captain. After the morning skate the other day in St. Louis, when his interviews had been completed and while the rest of the guys were heading back hotel for a pre-game lunch, Alfredsson, still not even showered or changed, sat in the corner of a dressing speaking quietly with Christoph Schubert, who would be a healthy scratch for the 14th time later that night.

Being the owner of the 'C' is not always easy, Alfredsson will tell you. With the Senators losing so much, he is not "jumping up and down with joy" when he gets home to Bibi and the kids. But win or lose, he loves his job and loves playing in Ottawa.

"You can't control who you get drafted by," said Alfredsson, who will today skate in his 900th game with the Senators. "It's been a great ride, starting from when I came to Ottawa, to going to where we were ... and now we're in a transition, but the whole ride has been phenominal and a great experience for me and my family.

"Other teams could have picked me, but it couldn't have been better than to be selected by Ottawa and been able to stay there."

Other than Joe Sakic, Mike Modano and Nicklas Lidstrom, no other active player has suited up for 900 games with the same team.

"Now with free agency and those types of things, it's probably going to happen a lot less," said Senators coach Craig Hartsburg. "It's a great credit to Alfie and a great credit to the organization to reward a character player like that by keeping him around.

"Lot of times he plays with a lot of bumps and bruises, and he competes hard every night," Hartsburg added.

Alfredsson says his recovery powers aren't what they used to be.

"You've got to look after yourself and be more careful," he said. "When you're 25 to 30, you can get cross-checked in the back 10 times and you don't notice it the next day. You wouldn't even have to warm up before practice. That's not the case any more. You've got to get the body going all the time. Especially this trip, two back-to-back games, and then playing again (this) afternoon ... you feel it. The smart thing would have probably been to take the day off (yesterday), but I like practising, I like being out on the ice. It's going to be interesting to see how I do (today). I feel strong. Obviously, I'm not as fit as I was when I was 25, but I feel really good physically."

Alfredsson has no idea when he'll retire.

"I love playing and I'll keep going as long as the body allows, pretty much," he said. "It's a job you're very fortunate to have, something I always loved doing, something I would do even if I wasn't a professional player, I would still play pickup and still be around the game somehow.

"I guess when you guys remind me it's 900 games I kind of reflect on how fortunate I've been."

And Ottawa, a hockey crazy market that surrounds a struggling team, has been fortunate to have him.


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