The city he calls home rarely wavers in its fierce support of the greatest — and likely most beloved — player in two decades of Ottawa Senators hockey.
feels it in the 'Al-fie, Al-fie' chants that rumble down in reverence from all parts of Scotiabank Place. But the Senators captain sounds overwhelmed as he ponders the massive support he and four teammates have received in fan balloting for the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game.
|City council members, including Mayor Jim Watson (right), joined Sparty at a rally at City Hall to push Senators fans to keep voting to get their players into the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club). |
"It's been unbelievable," Alfredsson said Tuesday as he talked about the voting results that currently have him in a starting position for the mid-season showcase, set for Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place. "It’s flattering, obviously, and I think it would be a lot of fun if we could get more than one or two guys into the game. It would be something when the all-star game is here (in Ottawa), too.
"All of us feel very humbled about the whole thing, but it’ll be a great experience for the fans if we have some players in (the game) and for ourselves, too."
With just hours remaining before the voting process closes at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, the Senators currently hold down three of the six available starting spots being determined by the fan balloting. As of last Friday, defenceman Erik Karlsson
leads all vote-getters on defence with 585,179 votes, while Alfredsson (537,918) and centre Jason Spezza
(486,004) rank second and third, respectively, among forwards behind Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs (592,339).
Also garnering large support are winger Milan Michalek
, who stands fifth among forwards (448.074) and Sergei Gonchar
, sixth in the defence vote totals (359,478). What's especially gratifying, said Alfredsson, is that the Senators are enjoying such support from a market that ranks among the smallest in the National Hockey League.
"I thought it was going to be tough getting voted in with their being bigger cities, especially Toronto, maybe Montreal and other teams," he said. "But the community here has really supported us and wants to see us in the game. It's been great to see the support we've been getting and, hopefully, it can continue in the next few hours before (voting) closes.
"It'll be interesting to see how this all ends up, but it would be great if we could get a few guys in."
The city's power brokers showed Tuesday they're willing to pull out all the stops to make it happen. At a noon-hour rally at Ottawa City Hall, Mayor Jim Watson — joined by a sea of city council members and school board trustees — urged the Sens Army to keep the voting push going right through to the Wednesday deadline.
"We've put aside party politics and we’re supporting one great cause," said Watson. "Finally, we get to elect senators in this country … the Ottawa Senators."
|The 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game logo is now in place at Scotiabank Place for the Jan. 29 game (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club). |
Watson pointed out the all-star weekend itself is a huge win for the capital. It's expected to generate $30 million in economic activity and fill 7,000 hotel rooms. It will be televised in 150 countries around the world.
For Alfredsson, who's been on a roll in the last few days with a pair of game-winning goals in overtime — including the 400th of his career last Friday against the Calgary Flames — playing in an all-star game in Ottawa would be another special memory in a 16-year career that's been filled with them. Coming off a season shortened by back woes, it was hardly an opportunity that he expected, though he intended to push hard to get there.
"I said going into the season that it would be awesome if I could play myself onto that team," said Alfredsson. "I knew it was going to be hard, but if I wasn’t on the team, I was going to be staying here in Ottawa to be a part of the festivities. To get the (fan) support and be close to being on the team … it feels unbelievable, to be honest.
"It is definitely going to be an experience, to represent your team in the all-star game, in your city. In my first all-star game in ’96, when Ray Bourque played in Boston, and I saw the reception he got and the other Boston guys. Just to be able to be a part of it is going to be an experience like no other year. You can always dream and sometimes, dreams do come true."
To show your support for the Senators, log on to www.nhl.com/vote
on your computer or mobile device, or text a player's last name to 81812. You're allowed 30 votes on each platform.