OTTAWA -- Chris Phillips managed to hold back the tears.
Phillips said it was an emotional night when former captain Daniel Alfredsson joined the Ottawa Senators for one last warm-up before their game against the New York Islanders on Thursday.
Alfredsson, who played 17 seasons with the Senators, scoring 426 goals in 1,178 regular-season games, announced his retirement earlier in the day.
"I was a little (choked up) actually," Phillips said. "I held back any tears, but , yeah, I’m a fan of this team too, and being able to play with him and watch him for so long and what he did. … At the same time, knowing that day is closer for me than further, makes you think a lot about it. I found it very emotional."
Alfredsson went through his usual pregame routine in the Senators dressing room before skating out to the fans in the Canadian Tire Centre chanting his name.
"It was fun. It was a lot of fun. I’ve been a part of a lot of ceremonies over the years, but nothing like this with someone I’d played with for so long," Phillips said. "The reaction of the fans, that was great, but to have him in the room here before and go out for warm-up, that was a lot of fun.
"I honestly felt like he was going to be playing the game tonight. It seemed like he hadn’t left at all. Walking around before the game and getting ready for warm-up, in the gym warming up a little bit, it really felt like nothing had changed."
Senators captain Erik Karlsson, who lived with Alfredsson as a rookie, said he was disappointed the team couldn’t get the win on Alfredsson’s big night.
The Islanders defeated the Senators 2-1; it was Ottawa’s fourth loss in a row.
"It was fun. It’s a special thing. It was a great thing of the fans to come early to watch the warm-up," Karlsson said. "The atmosphere got us going and it helped us early in the game. Going into this game, I think everybody was excited to play. We played a simple game and unfortunately we didn’t score two or three goals."
Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said he was impressed with what the organization did for Alfredsson. In addition to skating in the warm-up, Alfredsson signed a ceremonial agreement to retire as a member of the Senators during a press conference and delivered a pregame speech to the fans.
"I thought it turned out to be as good as it could be,” MacLean said. “I thought it gave us some energy and guidance in the first period.
"I thought it was a good day for him, it just ends up it’s a bad night for us as a team."