It is a big reason, the Ottawa Senators captain says, why he's been able to play more than 1,000 National Hockey League games — and continues to do at a high level.
Reason enough for Alfredsson to partner with Gerry Townend in the operation of The Sports Medicine Centre, a mutli-faceted facility that has opened its doors at the Bell Sensplex. Townend, the Senators' head athletic therapist, is fulfilling a vision of bringing to the public the same kind of health care the team's hockey players enjoy.
"I always felt if we could offer that to the general public, it would be of immense help to them," said Townend. "The facets of the doctors, the athletic therapy and massage therapy, strength and conditioning and chiropractic care — which we offer our own players — has really helped. And it helps keep them on the ice.
"When they get hurt, it helps speed up the process as much as possible to get them back on the ice. So that's where the vision has come from and, the bottom line is, we're just trying to help people."
It's the latter thought that convinced Alfredsson it's a venture he wanted to be involved in.
"We talked about it quite a lot, that I would love to partner with him in doing that," he said. "It's a way for me to look forward a little bit to my life after playing hockey. I'm really excited to be a part of this.
"To have Gerry and his network of (specialists) get people that are struggling and might not even know what's wrong with it, and to get them a diagnosis and get treatment and rehab for it ... it's going to help a lot of people. And we can do it all under one roof here. That's the whole business of it, to help people to live a healthier life and a happier life."
Townend admits it was "very humbling" when Alfredsson, a longtime friend, offered to join his cause.
"From a partnership standpoint, it's awesome to have him because we have very much the same values and ideals," said Townend. "We're just trying to help people, and he has a strong record in the community of doing that with the Royal Ottawa Hospital and everything that he has done with mental health issues. So I consider myself extremely fortunate."
Under that one roof at the Sports Medicine Centre is a team that includes chiropractors and registered massage therapists, plus some of the same staff that tends to Senators players — Chris Schwarz, the team's conditioning coach; its massage therapist, Shawn Markwick, and Dr. Don Chow, the team's doctor.
Nobody can offer a stronger recommendation about the abilities of the Senators staff than Alfredsson, who benefited greatly from their expertise as he worked for months to deal with the effects of debilitating back pain earlier this year.
"I know them closely and trust them completely," he said. "That's why I feel, even though it's never fun to be injured ... I always see it as a challenge to see how much you can push it. They know when to hold you back and when to push you more, and it's exciting to be able to offer the same services to the public to get healthier quicker."
Having just celebrated his 39th birthday, Alfredsson realizes more than ever that the benefits of athletic therapy are "invaluable."
"When you’re in your early 20s or even late 20s ... I found all the small bruises didn’t bother me that much and I really didn’t have to do anything about them," he said. "But when you get older, you’ve got to stay on top of a lot of things to be proactive, and not just wait for injuries to occur. There’s a lot of smaller signs that you can see.
"It’s so important and it’s allowed me to play 16 seasons (in the NHL)."
The Sports Medicine Centre is open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. To learn more about their services, visit www.sportsmedicinecentre.ca