|As Sweden captain, Daniel Alfredsson has spent plenty of time answering media questions during the 2012 IIHF World Hockey Championship. Today, he responds to queries from fans who contacted IIHF.com or submitted questions through Facebook (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images).
STOCKHOLM — Daniel Alfredsson has come full circle.
In 1995, he made a name for himself in Stockholm as he scored an overtime goal versus Canada in the World Championship semifinals. Now this 2006 Olympic gold medallist hopes to add more hardware in a Swedish-hosted tournament again.
A fixture in the Tre Kronor’s lineup, Alfredsson is competing in his seventh IIHF World Championship. The product of Frolunda Goteborg has collected two silver medals and two bronze medals thus far.
The 39-year-old Ottawa captain has spent his entire National Hockey League career with the Senators, accumulating 1,082 points in 1,131 career games. He led the team to the 2007 Stanley Cup final and has become a cornerstone of the community in the Canadian capital, where he resides with his wife and four sons.
IIHF.com caught up with Alfredsson after Sweden’s Monday afternoon practice to ask him questions submitted by fans from all over the world.
What has impressed you the most about the way the Swedish national team has played so far at this World Championship? (Joakim Svensson, Goteborg, Sweden)
Our pace of the game, I believe, has been really good. We’ve been able to put a lot of pressure on the other team and create a lot of offence from our aggressive forecheck. If I go back to most of the other times I’ve played in the World Championship, we’ve usually played more of a passive style. Now we’re being really aggressive and it’s been successful for us.
It’s been more of a pressure system and everybody has to do it. It doesn’t work if one guy goes by himself. But everybody’s on board. When we do get pressure on the other team, we usually play in their end for good periods of time.
Other than winning Olympic gold in 2006, what are some of your most memorable moments and memories playing for Sweden? (Jarka and Yvette Homolka, Lilydale, Australia)
My first World Championship here in Stockholm in 1995 is a highlight. Representing Sweden was obviously a dream of mine growing up. Being able to do that on home ice in Stockholm was a great experience. For a young guy like me then, it was probably a big stepping stone for me ending up in the NHL.
Considering the great performance of the Swedish junior team, do you think Sweden might reach first place in the IIHF World Ranking in the near future? (David Fischer, Prague, Czech Republic — via Facebook)
Well, we’re up there. It’s tough competition. But we see ourselves as definitely one of the best teams in the world internationally. Having said that, there are at least five or six other teams that probably think the same way! (chuckles)
Everybody knows Canada has the most depth of any country. The U.S. is coming on. I think their junior program that they’ve had the last few years is starting to pay off. Russia is always good. The Czechs maybe dropped a little bit the last few years, but still look good. Slovakia, kind of the same thing. And then our biggest rival, Finland, also has a good team. It’s encouraging to see the young players we are developing, and it’s definitely reason for optimism for the future.
Besides leadership, what values are needed to be a good hockey captain? (Lyne Ouellette, Gatineau, Que.)
I think you need to be an honest person, obviously. Everybody’s different. You grow up and you have your values, and I think you just have to be yourself. If the team feels you deserve to be captain, it’s probably because you have a lot to contribute.
For me, it’s always been that I demand a lot from myself in terms of work ethic and paying attention to details. By doing that, I can challenge the other guys to do the same, and they respect that. They see that “he pays the price, and why shouldn’t I?” I think that’s an important tool to have.
It’s amazing that you play like you do at 39. Do you think that you would have been the player you are today, had you been drafted at 18 and played in the NHL at 19? (Lukasz Kowalski, Katowice, Poland)
Obviously, it’s impossible to answer. But I think I was more mature than maybe an 18-year-old would be going to the NHL. I had a year and a half of first division men’s hockey and three years of elite league hockey (in Sweden) before going to the NHL. I also had played with the national team. So I was ready when I came over. I think it did help me in a big way. When I got there, I was ready to take on a bigger role right away. There are very few players that can go in at age 18 and take a spot and play top-six forward minutes. By waiting and making sure I was ready, I was able to do that. I could handle it emotionally and physically, especially.
You’ve said this past NHL season was one of your most enjoyable. What was your favourite part of your year here in Ottawa? (Mark Bunker, Ottawa)
Making the playoffs. Going into the season with the team we had, it was the first time I could remember that we didn’t have high expectations on ourselves. Being able to almost overachieve, I think everybody bought into what the coaching staff was selling. We worked extremely hard, but we also had a lot of fun doing it.
You play with Stéphane Da Costa with the Ottawa Senators. What do you think about the French ice hockey players and about the French ice hockey team? (Nicolas Didelot, Tarbes, France)
I don’t know too many other players on the team, except Stéphane. But he’s an extremely skilled forward. He played close to 20 games with us this year and did well. It’s a big step, going from college to the NHL.
He’s a player that I think needs a little more time to develop physically, especially to get stronger. If he does that, he has the ability to be a good player in the NHL. He saw that when he played. Some games he played really well, but others he didn’t play as well. It was mostly because he wasn’t physically ready. But as he grows and gets more mature, that will come. He could have a really bright future.
What do you think about Erik Karlsson? Does he have a chance to become a superstar like Nicklas Lidstrom? (Marcin Kyc, Sosnowiec, Poland — via Facebook)
You know, it’s tough to compare someone to Lidstrom, one of the best defencemen in the modern era. They are different players, too, in the ways they play. I think Nicklas is more of a solid guy that plays in every situation. Erik might get there, but he’s more of an offensive guy. He’s definitely improved his defensive play, but he’s more of an explosive guy that joins the rush all the time. I think Nicklas picks his spots more and he never makes a mistake. He’s just solid, night in and night out.
Erik has that potential to be a superstar, there’s no question. I also think he might almost change the way you want the defencemen to play, too, a little bit. You want that guy that skates all the time, that joins the rush all the time. It’s a tough mix, where you also want to be strong and play in front of your own net. But when you see a guy who can skate like he can, it could be a huge advantage. I don’t think a lot of people thought he would be able to play this well at the size he is. But he’s got balance and speed to make up for lack of strength and size.
I would like to know if you see yourself behind the Senators bench as an assistant or even a head coach in the NHL eventually? If so, would you be more of a strategy-minded or a motivator-type coach? (Pierre Larabie, Ottawa)
I think I’d be both. I don’t see myself coaching too soon. I think it takes even more time at the rink than it does as a player to prepare! (chuckles) Right now, I don’t think I’m ready for that. But I like the strategic aspect of the game. I think I read the game really well. I try to talk to our coaches about things I’d like to see at times. I’m interested in how the coaches think. I like that part of it. So I think I’d be a bit of both types. I think I can also challenge guys and motivate them in different ways.
If you had the choice of any players from any NHL teams, who would you love to have as linemates and why? (Paula Concepcion, Vancouver)
An all-star lineup with myself? I would take (Henrik) Lundqvist in net from New York. I’ve played with him and against him, and I’d rather play with him (chuckles). For defencemen, I’d probably take (Zdeno) Chara and (Erik) Karlsson. I think that would be a good mix. Chara has the big shot, but he’s more of a stay-at-home guy. Erik could be the one joining the rush, with Chara being the solid guy. Then I’d probably have (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin for my centre and left wing. Crosby is a great playmaker and strong on the puck. Malkin, same thing, but Malkin is a scoring threat, too. Great shot, great playmaker. I can just hide in the slot (laughs).
Which NHL arena has the best ice? (Bob Hoffman, Washington, D.C.)
I don’t know. People used to say Edmonton, but not anymore, although they have good ice. I think the arenas around the league are more booked up than they used to be, and that’s a big problem with the ice. So there isn’t one rink where I say, “Hey, here’s great ice.” It’s okay for the most part, don’t get me wrong, but no arena stands out.
When you decide to retire from the NHL, will you retire as a member of the Senators or have you considered playing one last season in the Swedish Elitserien? (Christoffer Olofsson, Stockholm, Sweden — via Facebook)
I will retire as a Senator. I won’t play in the Swedish league again. There are a few reasons. Once I feel like I’m done in the NHL, I think I’m done because mentally and physically I don’t feel like I can contribute as much as I would like or motivate myself. You know, if you go back to the Swedish league and try to play when you’re not motivated, it’s even worse, because it’s more skating and it’s even harder. So I will retire as an Ottawa Senator.
If you weren't a hockey player, what would you do for a living? Did you have a “backup plan” back in the days when you were starting as a youngster? (Vladimir Georgiev, Silistra, Bulgaria)
I didn’t have a backup plan. I had a few different jobs growing up. I worked at a golf course. I love golf and that’s how I started to golf. I worked at a warehouse. So I did a few things. I studied economics in high school. That’s not something I’m looking at right now, either. I don’t know what I would have done. I think I would have been involved in sports. I was a pretty good soccer player.
If I could choose, I would probably be a carpenter. That’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. I applied for carpentry in school, but then I couldn’t have gone in the hockey high school or “gymnasium,” as it was called. So I had to take economics instead. But that said, my dad was a carpenter, and it’s something I wish I could do.
Do you watch any other sports apart from hockey? (Linda Komen, Preston, United Kingdom)
I watch golf, tennis and soccer. Any sport, really, if it’s a big game. I can watch baseball, even though I’m not a baseball fan. Maybe not basketball — I don’t follow it that much. Even the NFL. But I love watching sports, although I don’t watch as much anymore with four kids. But golf, tennis, and soccer are the ones I follow more than any other.
Have you and your family ever skated on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa? (Carol Slack, Ottawa)
We have. With the two oldest ones we have, for sure. We tried to go down, but it wasn’t open much this year. We try to go down once a year at least. I’ve probably been on there 10 times in my 17 years in Ottawa.
What's the story behind your jersey number, No. 11? (Oona Huoponen, Oulu, Finland)
I had No. 63 in training camp my first year (with Ottawa). Me and a Finnish guy named Antti Tormanen both made the team as rookies. The trainer came up to me and said, "I'll give you the choice to choose first. We have No. 11 or No. 22." I picked No. 11 and Antti got No. 22. So that’s how it came about. I wore No. 11 as a soccer player and that’s why I wanted it. There’s no other story behind it.
— Author: Lucas Aykroyd