feels that fervour each and every night he puts on the Ottawa Senators jersey and, with the captain’s “C” emblazoned on his chest, leads his team onto the ice. And despite the microscope he operates under, the National Hockey League’s longest-serving captain welcomes all the trappings that go along with such responsibility.
“It’s a great honour,” the 37-year-old Alfredsson said of the distinction former Senators head coach Jacques Martin first bestowed upon him before the 1999-2000 season. “Being a captain in Canada and being European … it’s probably harder. You’re probably more scrutinized than if you were a Canadian. But I saw it as a great opportunity for me to grow as an individual and, at the same time, push myself a little bit more. And I think it did.”
Alfredsson turned out to be the right man at the right time for a franchise that was just on the cusp of being one of the NHL’s elite teams. He won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie in 1995-96, when the Senators were far from contender status. But as Alfredsson grew along with the team, Martin saw the kind of player built to provide a proper example to the rest.
“I’d been here for awhile and Jacques really liked my work ethic,” said Alfredsson. “And where we were as an organization … I’d been part of us being really bad, and then we started making the playoffs and having success.”
Being a captain in Canada and being European ... it's probably harder. You're probably more scrutinized than if you were a Canadian. But I saw it as a great opportunity for me to grow as an individual and, at the same time, push myself a little bit. And I think I did." - Daniel Alfresson
Since then, Alfredsson has seen it all, from the high of the 2007 Stanley Cup final to the lows of watching the playoffs from the sidelines. As the team grows younger around him, Alfredsson’s leadership qualities become more valued than ever.
“When you talk about being the captain … I don’t make any decisions in terms of the way we play all the time,” he said. “It’s more about having guys come to me and talking with guys about different issues, and being more of a sounding board between the players and coaches.
“You definitely learn about how to deal with the ups and downs. Helping the young guys deal with the pressure of being an NHL player in Canada has been good for me.”
So, too, has the city Alfredsson and his wife, Bibbi, have come to call home along with their three children – Hugo, 6, Loui, 3, and Fenix, 1. He calls his time here “a great ride.”
“For three or four years, we were never sure how long we were going to be here,” said Alfredsson. “But we were young, we were able to see the city a lot and get accustomed to it and the differences between living in Sweden and living in Canada. It wasn’t too hard of a transition.
“After three or four years, we felt really good here and that’s why we’ve been staying as well. It’s been a great city to spend the last 15 years of my life.”
While he hasn’t yet made a decision about his future beyond hockey – his current contract runs through the 2012-13 season – Alfredsson is thinking hard about staying in the city that has embraced him.
“We ourselves say ‘what are we going to do when I’m done playing? Are going to stay here or move back to Sweden?’” said Alfredsson, a native of Goteborg. “Probably right now, it’s leaning toward staying here but at the same time, we’re not going to make a decision yet.
“But this has been a great city for us. You don’t have much control, when you get drafted, about where you’re going to go. But coming to Canada and playing hockey has been unbelievable.”