“I don’t know if it would be devastating,” Alfredsson said during an interview Friday outside the Bell Sensplex. “I’m not saying I’m going to quit (playing) if there’s no hockey this year. You’ll have to quit some time.
“You don’t always choose when that time comes. Preferably, you would like to, but I have no problem with the situation. I’m just a small piece of the puzzle. We, as the union, will do what’s right for us and what’s fair. If that means I lose a year, then so be it.”
It took a lot for Alfredsson to decide he was going to come back to honour the final season of his contract at $1 million. He waited until early August before making his decision public. He wanted to make sure everything was right.
After going through a summer of rigorous training, Alfredsson will have to spend hours in the gym daily if this is a prolonged lockout, staying in shape and prepared if the puck does drop this season. Not playing at all could be difficult.
A straw poll of former players last week indicated a long lockout will have an adverse effect on veterans if they aren’t able to find a place to play. Skating is just one element of staying in shape. Playing games is a major factor.
“It could possibly push him into retirement,” said Jason York, a former Senators defenceman, last week. “He’ll be 40.”
Alfredsson missing a year of hockey isn’t like a 23-year-old Kyle Turris not playing this season.
“The older you get you’ve got to train twice as hard because your body doesn’t bounce back like you’re 25 years old,” said York, who works on the Team 1200. “I’m sure that Alfie wants to win, but I think if they lose a whole year it’ll be tough ... really tough.
“He trains really hard. Training as hard as he does, you’ve got to be motivated and stick with it. Imagine if he has to do that for four or five months? That’s the thing with him. He wanted to see how his body would feel with the training.
“If they keep pushing the season back, it’s only going to get more difficult because then you sit there wondering, ‘Okay, what’s my training end date here? What am I doing here?’ ”
A lockout could give Alfredsson a glimpse of what retirement may be like. During the work stoppage in 2004-05, he was an executive on the NHLPA’s bargaining committee, so he spent time in North America and Europe.
When the season was officially cancelled, he signed to play with his former club team in Sweden — the Frolunda Indians — but that door is closed at the moment. He is a father of four and his son Hugo is playing competitive hockey in Kanata.
Should a deal not get done, Alfredsson is going to have time he’s never had before to run his kids to practice and help his wife Bibbi with the heavy demands of parenthood. The pressure of playing will be removed.
Alfredsson said he’ll decide whether to play somewhere this season if the lockout is lengthy. He hasn’t ruled out suiting up.
“I’m not going to play before Christmas. If it would be a whole year, then I would probably make plans depending on what my future would look like. If I want to play (next season), I will probably go play somewhere,” said Alfredsson.
The one element that could easily bring Alfredsson back even if the season is cancelled: His drive and desire. Nobody can count him out and he was one of the club’s most productive players last season with 27 goals and 32 assists in 75 games.
Even if he has a year off, he’s not going to suddenly lose his skills and ability to play the game. Sure, he might be a little rusty, but he’s always going to be a fitness freak, so there won’t be any questions concerning his conditioning.
During the cancelled season in 2005, many wondered aloud if Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman was going to be able to return. He was coming off a devastating eye injury suffered in a playoff series against Nashville.
Instead of retiring, Yzerman willed himself to come back for one more season before hanging up his skates for good. He finished with 14 goals and 20 assists in 61 games and then called it a career.
There is no reason Alfredsson couldn’t do the same.
“I don’t think I’d sit out the whole year without hockey and then try to come back. That could be tough at my age, but who knows? It all depends,” said Alfredsson.
We can only hope.