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Alfredsson wows the hometown crowd

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
GOTEBORG, Sweden — They sang and clapped at a relentless feverish pitch until the man of the night gave them one last emotional curtain call.

Call it the most fitting of finishes to an evening hockey fans in Daniel Alfredsson's hometown won't forget anytime soon. That the Ottawa Senators captain and his teammates rolled past the Frolunda Indians 4-1 in their final pre-season tuneup before a full house of 12,020 at the Scandinavium ... well, all of that seemed rather secondary to the three-hour love fest the boisterous Frolunda fans lavished on one of their own.

Where else would a player wearing the visiting team's jersey get this kind of reception? Even though Alfredsson, with a goal and an assist, did more than probably any Senator to spoil Frolunda's night on the scoreboard, the Indians' faithful could never turns their backs on the man who led them to a Swedish Elite League crown in 2005 during the NHL lockout.

"I’m especially happy for Daniel Alfredsson and the way he was (received) by the crowd and the fans in Gothenburg," Frolunda coach Ulf Dahlen, a former NHLer, said with obvious admiration. "He deserves it and he’s done a lot for Swedish hockey. It was a special moment, not only for him but for everyone who was here."

The Frolunda fans, who chanted to the seemingly never-ending beat of a drum thoughout this night, wouldn't let Alfredsson off the ice until he acknowledged them one last time. "Come to the boards" they sang first, then "Alfredsson back to Sweden." The Senators captain saluted them with a raised stick before tossing it into the stands, which brought another round of wild cheers.

All of this 20 minutes — at least — after the final buzzer sounded.

"It's unbelievable," said Hasse Alfredsson, Daniel's father, who was clearly emotional about such an open display of warmth and reverence toward his son. "I'm very touched."

Alfredsson was moved by the heartfelt sincerity of it all himself.

"I was doing an interview with Swedish TV and they said ‘look around you, you’re the only one left on the ice,’ " he said. "People were chanting and I didn’t realize it at the time. I did a lap (for them) there. It’s been a great day throughout, meeting people around the town, and then in the rink today. Getting that response feels really humbling."

Though he admitted to some butterflies in his stomach when he first arrived at the Scandinavium, Alfredsson revelled in the moment. There was a thunderous cheer when his name was announced for the ceremonial opening faceoff. They roared again later in the first period, when Alfredsson wired home a goal that put the Senators up 2-0, just 71 seconds after Chris Kelly broke a scoreless tie. He later added an assist on Jason Spezza's goal that wrapped up the Ottawa scoring in the third (Alex Picard had made it 3-1 before that).

"It turned out to be everything I expected and more. We won the game and I scored a goal," said Alfredsson, whose face adorned the cover of the Frolunda game program sold on this truly special night. "I was (nervous) when I came to the rink but I wasn’t nervous when I got out on the ice. I was fine. But I was nervous about everything before the game. A lot of anticipation, I guess, leading up to this day.

"It was a lot of fun and a day I’ll always remember, there’s no question."

His teammates savoured the occasion, too.

"That was nice," centre Jason Spezza said about the Alfredsson goal he set up. "If he didn’t score early, I was going to have to try to get him the puck all night so it was good that got an early one and got it out of the way."

The joyous enthusiasm of the Frolunda crowd left an impression on everyone who hadn't seen their passionate brand of support.

"I thought the fans were amazing," said Spezza. "It was an exciting building to play in tonight."

There was only one down side to the night for the Senators. Centre Mike Fisher re-aggravated a groin injury and left the game in the first period. He later said it'll be a game-time decision whether he suits up against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Sens' 2008-09 season opener Saturday in Stockholm.

"We’ll have to wait and see how he feels tomorrow," said Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg. "We’re hoping it’s not real serious but we’ll know better tomorrow."

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