Alfie's big decision

Daniel Alfredsson will make a decision on his future when he returns from the world championship....

Daniel Alfredsson will make a decision on his future when he returns from the world championship. (Ottawa Sun file photo)

Bruce Garrioch, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:20 PM ET

OTTAWA - As the clock ticked down on his NHL career, Patrick Lalime wept.

His eyes started to get watery with eight minutes left in the Buffalo Sabres’ 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 of a playoff series at the Wells Fargo Center on April 26, 2011. Not dressed that night, he was overcome by emotion in the press box.

Later, after consoling his teammates in the room, the former goalie headed to the bench in the empty arena and cried some more — alone with his thoughts in what was his final act as an active player.

Lalime, 37, didn’t have to wipe the tears away because he was sad. The emotion of reaching the end of the long journey got the best of him. The time was right and, most importantly, he left on his own terms.

“I saw it coming. I wasn’t playing,” said Lalime, now an analyst for RDS. “I had started looking into (retirement) and you get excited about what lays ahead. You think about your family, everything that you’ve gone through.

“I had prepared myself for it. As soon as the season was over, I knew it. When I sat on that bench in Philly crying, I was just thankful for everything. I left healthy. I had made the call. I had already made calls to try to prepare for what was going to be next for me after playing.”

There are three ways an NHL player can retire:

No. 1: On their own terms, perhaps, even at the top of their game.

No. 2: They get told by management and the coaching staff they haven’t got what it takes anymore.

No. 3: A career-ending injury such as concussion or a situation that requires surgery.

It’s up to Daniel Alfredsson to choose what path he wants to take into his golden years. The 39-year-old Ottawa captain has put off his dilemma on what’s next by going home to play for Sweden at the world championship.

Deciding to walk away is not easy. Leaving after the kind of season Alfredsson just had — 59 points, his 400th career goal, an appearance in the all-star game at Scotiabank

Place and two concussions — could make it even tougher.

“I sympathize with (Alfredsson) because if you have the choice, I don’t think you should make that decision quickly,” said Sportsnet analyst Denis Potvin, an Ottawa native who won four Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders.

“I’m sure if he does retire, it will be something he has thought about over time, as I did when I left. I probably thought about it for two years. The quick answer is: When I started to enjoy practice more than I did playing the games, I knew it was time for me to retire.”

The weeks ahead won’t be easy for Alfredsson. If he does return to play next season, he must commit to another summer of training to make sure he’s in shape for camp in September.

If he walks away this summer and steps into the front office, he’ll leave knowing he had a brilliant career with one franchise, but won’t get the chance to ever lift the Stanley Cup.

“He knows in the back of his mind he can still play. That’s not the question,” said former Ottawa blueliner Curtis Leschyshyn, now an assistant coach with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades. “If he was to decide to retire, there’s that question: What could the future have held for me?

“Was there a Stanley Cup? Was there another tremendous season? (The Cup) would probably be the No. 1 decision as to why he’d want to come back ... to try to give it one last shot to win a Cup. I see no reason why wouldn’t do it unless he felt, that’s pretty much it.”

Due to make $1 million in the last season of a four-year extension he signed in 2008, Alfredsson could always be dealt at the deadline to a contender if the Senators fall back and don’t compete for a playoff spot.

“I know for me it was very important to finish my career all with one team,” said Potvin, who retired in 1988. “I’m not sure how (Alfredsson) feels, but for me it was a big consideration. I didn’t want to go play for anyone else.

“I didn’t want to put on any other jersey.”

This is a life decision. Alfredsson has to decide what he wants next. He said at the end of the season he wants time, but many believe he should decide before mid-June to allow GM Bryan Murray time to do some planning before the draft and free agency.

“I know I need to have that desire to get ready for another year,” Alfredsson said last month. “If you don’t, it will be a very frustrating year for me personally just going through the motions. You have to bring everything you have to the table to be honest with the team and with yourself. This league is way too good to go out and go through the motions.”

Alfredsson may not weep himself, but fans certainly will if he does not return to the ice.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca 


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