|Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson holds up the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, which he received Wednesday night at the 2012 NHL Awards in Las Vegas for his community efforts (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images).
In his adopted hometown, Daniel Alfredsson's leadership abilities long ago became the stuff of legend.
Both on and off the ice.
Now the National Hockey League has recognized the Ottawa Senators captain for his dedication to Ottawa and the Senators, naming him the 2012 winner of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. It is presented annually to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a significant contribution to his community.
The award is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and the NHL Broadcasters' Association.
Alfredsson, the NHL's current longest serving captain, has become a community icon during his 16 years in the nation's capital. He is a highly visible supporter of the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health as the face of its 'You Know Who I Am' campaign, which seeks to raise awareness and break down stigmas associated with mental health.
The 39-year-old native of Goteborg, Sweden, chose to join the campaign because his own sister, Cecilia, suffers from general anxiety disorder. Alfredsson has been hailed for his courage in speaking out about mental health issues.
As well, Alfredsson supports the Ottawa Boys and Girls Club through his association with the annual Ringside For Youth event, which puts the spotlight on local amateur talent at the Beaver Boxing Club.
"It's been something I think we consciously did as a club," Alfredsson said earlier this season in explaining his devotion to community involvement. "As a player, when you do that, you feel like you're doing it for the community that basically pays your salary and you're helping out.
"A lot of times, you'll go out and see kids and you see how much it means to them. Sometimes, we don't realize how much people idolize us. It's just a good feeling to be able to help out and give back in other ways."
All of which made tonight's honour easy to appreciate.
"It’s humbling to be acknowledged for especially contributing to the community. I don’t think it’s something that you expect. As an older guy on the team, it’s important to teach the young guys how important it is to be involved in the community that supports us so much, and help out. We have a very special capacity by being public (people) and I believe hockey is one of the sports where you have a lot of good people playing. They do want to help out and make a big difference in their community." - Daniel Alfredsson
"It’s humbling to be acknowledged for especially contributing to the community. I don’t think it’s something that you expect," said Alfredsson. "As an older guy on the team, it’s important to teach the young guys how important it is to be involved in the community that supports us so much, and help out. We have a very special capacity by being public (people) and I believe hockey is one of the sports where you have a lot of good people playing. They do want to help out and make a big difference in their community."
Of course, Alfredsson is revered in the Senators dressing room, where he was the leader of a revival of the team's fortunes during the 2011-12 season. Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean quickly learned of his captain's value during his first season behind the Senators bench.
"When you're talking about building blocks and foundation players of a franchise ... he's one of those guys," MacLean said of Alfredsson, an unheralded sixth-round pick (133rd overall) by the Senators in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. "He probably didn't start out as one of those guys when he came over and played (in the NHL), but he made himself better. He had a burning desire to be successful and to play and that's what you need to be in this league and and have longevity in this league.
"His dedication to fitness, his dedication to the city of Ottawa and the fans of Ottawa are what made him what he is. But he's been real good to them, too."
The franchise's all-time leader in goals (416), assists (666), points (1,082) and games played (1,131), Alfredsson was also a finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, presented annually to the player best displaying the qualities of perseverance and dedication to hockey. Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens received the honour during the 2012 NHL Awards event in Las Vegas.
"I talked to Max backstage a little bit and we kind of congratulated each other for coming back and having great years," said Alfredsson. "He’s very deserving of it as was Joffrey Lupul. And it’s great stories."