For everyone in the Ottawa Senators organization, it will be the most historic of hockey beginnings.
Nobody, however, will run through the same gamut of emotions as captain Daniel Alfredsson
when the Senators arrive in Sweden next week for the NHL Premiere series. The Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins open the season against each other Oct. 4 and 5 in Stockholm.
Alfredsson remains a massive hero in Sweden and especially in his hometown of Gothenburg, where the Senators will face his old club team – the Frolunda Indians – in an exhibition game on Oct. 2. It is an occasion that is most special to a player who surely realizes the importance of such a game to the community he knows so well.
“It’s going to be exciting, there’s no question,” said Alfredsson. “I ended up going back to Sweden for three days this summer – that was really it. I have lots of friends and family to see. I’m sure it will be a hectic time but I’m really looking forward to it.”
He is most enthused about the chance to play in a building that, during his formative years, fuelled his passion for the game he loves so much.
“I think that’s going to be really neat to be able to play in an arena that I (used to) play in,” said Alfredsson of the Scandinavium in Gothenburg. “I grew up watching hockey in that arena, as well, and I went to high school right next door. So I have a lot of memories from there. To play there again with Ottawa is going to be a pretty neat experience.”
Alfredsson further enhanced his stature at home back in 2005, when he led Frolunda to the Swedish Elite League crown while the National Hockey League was shut down for the season by a work stoppage. A year later, Alfredsson wore the tre kronor proudly as Sweden struck gold in men’s hockey at the Turin Olympics.
Thirteen years after leaving his homeland for the NHL, Alfredsson is amazed he gets to savour the experience of bringing the Senators with him to Gothenburg and Stockholm, a city in which he also played many times over the years.
“I thought for sure I wouldn’t be able to go back and relive it,” Alfredsson told NHL.com. “But this is a great opportunity to do that. You know, playing in front of Swedish fans, it’s something I’m definitely looking forward to.”
The buzz is already simmering in Gothenburg for the return of the hometown hero.
“For the people in Gothenburg, it’s a big thing,” said Frolunda coach Ulf Dahlen, a former NHL star. “When you add the aspect that Daniel Alfredsson
is home, that makes it even more special.”
The Indians roster includes a number of players with NHL dreams of their own, including defenceman Erik Karlsson
, the Senators’ top pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Another player on that team, Joakim Andersson, told NHL.com facing off against Alfredsson and the Senators will be a moment of true inspiration.
“We have all heard about Daniel and we know what he has done,” said Andersson. “The excitement about him coming here is already starting to build. We have regular-season games to worry about but there is no denying that, when the time comes, everyone will be excited.”
Nobody more than the returning legend himself.
“I think it will be a special night,” said Alfredsson.