OTTAWA - Daniel Alfredsson on Thursday morning donned his old Ottawa Senators No. 11 jersey and announced his retirement from the NHL. Here is his speech in its entirety:
"One evening nearly 20 years ago a young man in a small town in Sweden got a phone call that would change his life. It was an invitation to play hockey in Canada. I had never been to North America, I had a young girlfriend, Bibbi, and it was a long way from Goteborg to Ottawa. But we made the leap. We began an incredible new chapter of our lives in your town starting in August 1995. Our marvellous boys were born here, and we grew from youngsters into aging parents. You made your town our town. Thank you.
"It was an incredible experience to play hockey with so many great players, so many great friends over so many great seasons. I really realize that I'm a very lucky guy. Even more important to me than my time on the ice was my time in our city, meeting new people, making new friends, watching my boys grow, and most of all beginning a campaign to help change attitudes towards those struggling with mental illness. My work with the Royal Ottawa Hospital has been another high point in my life. Whatever I gave has been more than repaid in seeing the changes beginning to happen and some of the lives that I have touched. It is still an important part of my life and will continue to be so.
"Some of you may remember nearly four years ago now, my body started sending me signals that all these years of hockey had a cost. My back began to act up, and I began to have the kind of issues bodies develop after years of physical work. I worked hard to fight it off and I got some great help along the way and I got another two great seasons in Ottawa and a third one last year. But in the back of my mind, I still knew that the clock is ticking. Then on a Saturday morning two summers ago, I got another phone call from an old Swedish pal of mine. This call started a process that would launch the next chapter in our lives. It was a very, very hard decision to make: changing teams, uproot my family, start over again in a new place. But change helps you grow. New experiences are as important when you're young, like my children, as they were for me at 22 or even today. We've had a great year in Detroit: new friends, a new team, new adventures. Thank you Detroit.
"I've grown and learned a lot in the past 18 months. I realize that you never stop learning, especially when you're open to new beginnings and new chapters. Then last season my body began to complain once more. The old injury and the hard work of recovery began all over again. I worked hard to rehab my back this summer so I could play another year. However, about three weeks ago I realized it's time to retire. It's another hard decision. Then I got another important phone call from Ottawa. Bryan said he and Mr. Melnyk had spoken and had an idea that I should not end my career in Detroit but with a proper retirement here in our adopted hometown. I spoke with Ken Holland about my retirement and that Bryan and Mr. Melnyk wanted me to retire as an Ottawa Senator, and Ken encouraged me to retire here. He said it's the right thing to do.
"I was taken aback by this offer. I never believed that my career entitled me to any special treatment. However Bibbi and I both agreed this was the right thing to do and it would give us a chance to say thank you to the people and the fans of Ottawa. So here we are. Today I officially retire as an Ottawa Senator and another new chapter will begin tonight as we say goodbye to Ottawa. The future may hold some role for me in hockey again, but not this year. This is one for my family, for my own life and for reflecting on where we've been and deciding on what's next. For now I'm just very grateful for this opportunity to say thank you and goodbye, and please no more phone calls for a while.
"Let me just say thank you to Ottawa, to the Sens, to the Sens fans and especially to Mr. Melnyk, thank you. And to Bryan. I really appreciate this. Merci et a bientot. Thank you."