|Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson receives a special Frolunda Indians jersey in recognition of his 1,000th NHL game during a special ceremony Saturday night. Ottawa defenceman Erik Karlsson, a fellow Frolunda alumnus, made the presentation (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
One thousand games later, the love affair between Daniel Alfredsson
and his adopted home remains as enduring as ever.
With a sellout throng of red clad fans chanting his name with great fervour, the Senators captain was honoured Saturday night during an emotional pre-game ceremony prior to Ottawa’s matchup with the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Place.
It was a tribute to Alfredsson’s 1,000th game in the National Hockey League, a milestone he reached earlier this week against the Florida Panthers. But tonight was the night Alfredsson truly looked forward to — the chance to share it all with his family, friends and “some of the most passionate, enthusiastic fans in the NHL.”
“I thank you for your support through my whole career,” Alfredsson told the cheering fans in a speech that concluded the 11-minute ceremony. “It’s an honour to be the captain of year team.”
At times, those fans barely let him speak, interrupting Alfredsson with the deafening “Al-fie, Al-fie” chants that marked the Senators’ run to the Stanley Cup final in 2006-07.
“This is hard enough as it is,” Alfredsson said with a grin at one point.
Clearly, though, he was enjoying this moment. At his side were his wife Bibbi, “who has made me a better hockey player and a better man,” and his three sons, Hugo, Loui and Fenix. Also in the house were Alfredsson’s proud parents, Hasse and Margareta, sister Cecilia, brother Henric and a pair of childhood friends from Sweden, Magnus Nilsson and Fredrik Boije.
This was hardly a night Alfredsson had in mind when he first arrived in Ottawa in 1995 for his rookie season with a still-young franchise that had yet to make the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Alfredsson went on to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year that season — the only individual award ever won by a Senators player in modern franchise history.
Today, he is the Senators’ all-time leader in goals, assists and points and the longest-serving current captain in the NHL, at 11 seasons and still going strong.
“Who would have imagined this night all the way back in 1995?” Alfredsson said in starting his ceremony speech. “I never could have dreamed I would be so fortunate to have the long and healthy career I’ve had so far, let alone with one team.”
He has hardly done it alone. Besides the fans, Alfredsson always expressed gratitude for the support he’s received from his family, team owner Eugene Melnyk, hockey management and the many teammates “who made me want to come to the rink every day for 15 years.”
The captain's current teammates paid their own tribute to Alfredsson during the pre-game warmup, as all of them hit the ice wearing No. 11 jerseys. His familiar number was also painted on the ice behind both nights and on every rinkboard.
Alfredsson received a number of gifts during the ceremony, including a custom painting by local artist Tony Harris from the Senators organization (presented by Melnyk and general manager Bryan Murray), a silver stick from his teammates (presented by assistant captains Chris Phillips
and Mike Fisher), a silver puck from Melnyk and a commemorative jersey and framed letter from the Frolunda Indians, his former club team in Sweden (presented by fellow Frolunda alumnus Erik Karlsson
“I’m humbled to stand before you and receive all these gifts and attention,” said Alfredsson later.
He is most proud that every one of his 1,002 games so far in his career have been played in Ottawa — a city he may well still call home after his playing days are done.
“A thousand games is a great milestone, but I have been here my whole career,” Alfredsson said earlier in the day. “I have been able to establish a lot of connections with fans and friends and people outside the rink as well. It means a lot, that part, to be here the whole time. With hockey being so popular here, a lot of people share that (milestone) with me as well.”
They did it with great gusto tonight, most of them standing and cheering in red “Alfredsson 1,000 Games” T-shirts to acknowledge their beloved captain.
“I’m very proud to have played 1,000 (NHL) games,” Alfredsson told them all. “I’m even more proud it has been with one team.”