|Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson will suit up for Sweden for the fourth time at a Winter Olympics this week at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. It'll also be his last time playing under the five rings (Robert Laberge/Getty Images).
The hockey alone is more than enough to get Daniel Alfredsson
's juices flowing.
But no matter how it ends, there will be something extra special about the tournament just beginning to unfold at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.
It is the fourth time the Ottawa Senators captain has the distinction of wearing Sweden's colours at the Winter Games. And it'll also be his swan song under the five rings.
Alfredsson plans to savour every second of what many believe could be a hockey event for the ages.
"It will be my last (Olympics) and it’s probably going to be the most hyped-up one because it’s in Canada and it’s hockey," said Alfredsson, who has brought has family with him to Vancouver to share the moment. "It's probably the biggest international tournament, maybe even ever. There are a lot of great teams entered, so it should be a great tournament. I’m looking forward to being a part of the Olympic experience and, hopefully, doing well in the tournament."
While much of the pre-Olympic talk has centred around host Canada and two-time world-champion Russia, it is the Swedes who enter Vancouver 2010 as defending Olympic gold medallists. And Alfredsson believes the Tre Kronor has the horses to get it done again. Sweden got its title defence started by blanking Germany 2-0 on Wednesday night.
"I think we’ve got a good chance," he said. "I don’t think we can compare ourselves to Russia or Canada as far as depth on their teams. But we’ve got a good team and so does Finland, the U.S., the Czechs and Slovaks.
"It’s going to be a great tournament and it’s just a matter of, once you reach the quarter-finals, you just find your groove and get on a roll. In one game, we know we can beat anybody, but we can also lose to anybody as well. It’s going to be a lot of fun."
Everything fell precisely into place for the Swedes at the Turin Olympics in 2006, culminating with a 3-2 triumph over Scandinavian neighbour and rival Finland in the gold-medal game.
"It will be my last (Olympics) and it’s probably going to be the most hyped up one because it’s in Canada and it’s hockey. It's probably the biggest international tournament, maybe even ever. There are a lot of great teams entered, so it should be a great tournament. I’m looking forward to being a part of the Olympic experience and, hopefully, doing well in the tournament." - Daniel Alfredsson
"To win, a lot of things have to go right," said Alfredsson. "We were fortunate that we got Switzerland in the quarter-finals and then the Czechs. And Russia, who we struggled with in the round-robin (a 5-0 loss), got beaten by Finland in the semifinals. If we had played Russia (in the final), it might have been a different game, but that's the way it works out sometimes in a short tournament."
While there was little time to savour that triumph — the National Hockey League season resumed a few days later — Alfredsson knows now just how special a moment it was.
"When you think about it once in awhile or you see (the gold medal) in a drawer back home, it brings back great memories," he said. "You're very proud. Not a lot of people get to experience (the Olympics) or win a gold medal. That's something that will always be with me."
He'll stay in the athletes' village one more time in Vancouver, soaking up everything that is part of the Olympic experience.
"You're a part of so many different athletes that get together every four years to try to be at their best," said Alfredsson. "It's a great atmosphere to be around because everybody's really focused and paying attention to all the details. And it's fun to trade stories with those people as well.
"Then all the history that comes with the Olympics makes it a wonderful tournament. It's watched all over the world and there's no bigger stage for an athlete than the Olympics."