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Home Swede home for Alfie

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Daniel Alfredsson can’t wait to bring the National Hockey League’s game to his homeland.

The Senators captain and his teammates will begin the 2008-09 season in Stockholm, facing off against Sidney Crosby and the Eastern Conference-champion Pittsburgh Penguins in a pair of games Oct. 4 and 5. Also part of trip: An exhibition game against the Frolunda Indians – Alfredsson’s former team in the Swedish Elite League, which is based in his home town of Gothenburg.

“It’s going to be real exciting, not only for the NHL but personally for me as well,” Alfredsson said earlier today before the Commissioner’s Luncheon, part of NHL entry draft day activities at Scotiabank Place.

“I think it will be great for us to be able to show the NHL to Europe, especially post-lockout with the rules changes. The game has really moved forward and it’s a lot of fun to watch. I expect the Swedish audience to really enjoy the speed we play at (now) compared to the European style. We’re really looking forward to it.”

So, too, is Senators general manager Bryan Murray, who said “I think it’s terrific for the players (and) the exposure of our game.

“We’ve got a great game. The style now is somewhat different than previously and it gives us a great opportunity to show off our game to that community.”

Alfredsson and Murray were part of a panel discussion held in Club Red in front of a group that included many Senators season-ticket holders. The panel also included former broadcaster John Davidson, now the president of hockey operations for the St. Louis Blues, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Davidson, who enjoyed several international experiences during his playing days, said it’s a thrill for any player who gets to be a part of it.

“I think that opportunity to go over to that part of the world to see it, to experience their culture and to play meaningful games would be fantastic for all of us,” he said.

If Bettman has his way, there will be plenty more of it to come. He said the European games provide “a great way for us to reconnect our foreign players with our roots.”

“Obviously, we had Daniel in mind when we decided to try to arrange to have him go home with his Ottawa Senators team,” said Bettman. “This is a great opportunity for us to respond to the tremendous interest there is in the NHL in Europe and the former Soviet Union. Thirty per cent of our players – some of the best players in the world, like Daniel – come here to play in the NHL. The fans in those countries want to see how their players are doing.

“We did it last year in London, we’re doing it in Prague and Stockholm this year and if it continues to be as successful as it has been, and we hope it will continue to be, we’ll do more and more of these. I can envision a time when we take a dozen teams over to start the season and we cover all of the (most important cities) in northern Europe and give them a first-hand taste of our game and who our players are.”

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