FanPost

Fear and Loathing in Thunder Bay: Reflections on a Franchise Defining Day

I wonder what I would have done if I had been in Kingston today. I like the idea that I would have left my desk at work at 11:30 AM when it was clear that this was indeed The Darkest Timeline. I probably would have scribbled something on a Post-It Note like, "BRB, broken heart" or "Taking day off because Alfie" and left it on my computer monitor. I would have walked home, and I would have gone to my room, opened my closet, and put on my Original White Ottawa Senators jersey. The one I was going to put "Alfredsson 11" on the back of just because how fucking EPIC would that have been? It would have made everyone jealous. Old school jersey. Old school name. I'd wear it to Canadian Tire Place and people would offer me $200 to sell it to them on the spot, but I'd smile and tell them "Sorry mate, I'm not selling.". That's the jersey I'd put on if I'd been in Kingston. Then I would have walked to Fanatics on Princess Street. The hostess would have smiled at me, and I'd say, "I'm going to the bar." in kind of a neutral tone. Drinking at Noon on a Friday in Kingston is not so weird after all. I'd have taken up a spot on the left side, facing a television, so I could watch the grisly scene unfold in slow motion. Then I would have handed my credit card to the bartender, and I would have said, "I want you to keep bringing me drinks until you can no longer legally serve me.". He'd give me a Canadian or some other sort of disappointing beverage and I would have drained it in about 20 seconds. You practice drinking for days like this, after all. "I need something harder.", I'd say, and as the bartender turned around to get the rum, I'd take out my phone and text The Tif. "Come to Fanatics. Nachos are on me." the text would have read. He'd have brought someone with him. He always does. Friendly guy, that The Tif. He finds Senators fans everywhere. I wish I could do that. I think the company would have improved my mood. Maybe there would be another TV with Wimbledon on it. That would distract, too. But still, I'd always know why I was there...

I also like the idea that I after I walked out my front door in my Sens jersey, I might have gone to be with my people. If this sort of thing didn't cause weeping in the streets of Ottawa, what would? Quick call to my buddy Matt. Matt and I were supposed to go see Game 6 in Round 1 of the playoffs this year, but it never got that far. "You heard the news, Matt? I'm coming to Ottawa. We have to drink. I'm taking the Greyhound. Meet me downtown in three hours." Then, onto the bus. In my mind, the journey would be insignificant. Maybe I'd sleep. Maybe I'd check Twitter. Matt would be waiting for me when I arrived. We'd have walked to Elgin Street, and I'd stop to talk with every Sens fan I could find. Some fans would have been angry, but I'd try to explain to them that anger is not what they felt. No, they felt disappointment. We all did. Come, let us drink. A crowd would have formed, Sens Mile writ large again, but for all the wrong reasons...Then, the question of the day would emerge: "What are we going to do when we face Alfie in the playoffs?". A fate worse than death. The team would have to kill its own Alfather, prove to him that he made an error. What if Alfie eliminated Ottawa? Would we ever forgive him? Even Oedipus is like, "Man, that's some crazy shit, dude." Pondering these questions would send me into an even deeper depression. I have no doubt that the inevitable conclusion to the day would have involved myself covered in vomit and passed out in a ditch somewhere in the Ottawa Valley. This would have happened.

The fact is, none of those things happened, because I was not in Kingston. I was in Thunder Bay with my father, visiting my Grandmother on her 80th birthday. When I left the hotel room, I knew things looked bad apropos of Alfie's resigning. By the time I arrived at my Grandmother's house, I knew it was all over but the considerable crying, whereafter my phone died, mirroring the last piece of my soul that believed an athlete could transcend his own humanity. I spent the afternoon distracted. I don't know if anyone noticed.

I don't remember who was the first athlete to disappoint me. I remember my father explaining to me when I was six years old that Brett Favre had become Addicted. He had hurt himself, and he couldn't stop taking the pills he used to make himself feel better, and now he was Addicted. Brett Favre couldn't play football until he was not Addicted anymore. Favre didn't miss a game. Later that season, Brett Favre would lead Green Bay to a Super Bowl.

The first athlete to disappoint me might have been Alexei Yashin. He wouldn't play for Ottawa because he wanted more money. As a 9-year-old, this was unfathomable to me. He was the team's best player! He should stop being selfish and play! In retrospect, it seems likely that Yashin was merely taking the advice of his agent, but such nuance was above me as a child, and it was probably above above the TEAM1200 callers at the time, as well. No, Yashin was a Bad Man, so I couldn't like him any more.

I've never gone from love to loathing of a player as fast as I did with Dany Heatley. I think it's easy to forget just how wonderful that Pizza Line of Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson was. Heatley scored 50 goals two seasons in a row, and the team made the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history. Ok, so 2008 hadn't been that great but with that core, there was always hope for next year. Then he requested a trade. Then he made the trade request known, thus handcuffing Bryan Murray as he tried to get maximum value. Then I found out that Heatley wanted to leave because of a personal issue with new coach Cory Clouston, and I was apoplectic. That guy had been a selfish d-bag all along. How dare he only look out for himself!

By the time Brett Favre signed later that summer with Green Bay's hated rival, the Minnesota Vikings, I had seen enough. From Joe Montana with the Chiefs, to Michael Jordan with the Wizards, to a host of players in between, a beloved athlete staying with the franchise that made him is the exception, not the rule. And rarely is the divorce between Franchise Player and Franchise not acrimonious.

So let's say that I've known for a while that one shouldn't get attached to their favourite athletes on their favourite teams. Daniel Alfredsson was different, though. Alfie's on-ice achievements have been well-documented, but for me, it was always what he did off-ice that made him special. His soft-spoken humility, his quiet intensity, his outreach in the community, and the way Ottawa embraced him back made for one of the most special athlete-community relationships in all of pro sports. When he settled his family in Ottawa, and said that he was going to stay, even after he retired, I believed him. When he said, "If I'm going to win a Cup, I'm going to win it with Ottawa.", I believed him. Alfie was going to be a one-club man, and I was proud of him for it. Loyalty is the hardest trait to come by in sports, but by God, Alfie was goddamn loyal. Long after his retirement, I was going to point to the Alfredsson on my back and say to Leafs fans, "Now that's a franchise player who cared. Not like your self-serving Sundin..."

Alas.

I'm not just disappointed Alfie's leaving Ottawa, I'm disappointed he wasn't special after all. I'm disappointed that it turned out Alfie's just like the rest of them, and I'm disappointed I let myself believe he wasn't.

Make no mistake, though: what Alfie has done over the past 17 years is not going away. His work with the Royal Ottawa Foundation and Do It For Daron will not have been in vain or been undone. I'm sure he will continue to work with and support the You Can Play Initiative in Detroit if he is called upon. There will always be That Goal in 2007 or That Goal in 2013 or his 400th goal or that time he scored shorthanded in the Stanley Cup Finals while Ryan Getzlaf did everything except pull a knife to stop him. I am not going to wake up tomorrow in a reality where Daniel Alfredsson is not the greatest player to put on a Senators jersey just because he'll be putting on a different one next season.

Next season.

Apparently they're still having one. Thank God someone told The Bryan. That Bryan Murray sure can GM, can't he? The Bobby Ryan trade turned, in the words of Mr. Burns, a potential Chernobyl into a mere Three Mile Island. What would have happened in Ottawa had Murray not been able to come up with a shiny new acquisition is anyone's guess, but I like to dwell on the possibility of an unruly mob marching on Eugene Melnyk's mansion, passing around a hat, and throwing the collection at the baffled Euge with instructions clone us a fancy new Alfredsson with all his big biotech equipment or face the unsavory consequences. But I digress...

We always knew there would come a day where the Senators' roster did not contain Daniel Alfredsson. Well take it from me: The Future is now. The Bryan gave up Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen, and next year's 1st for Robert T. Ryan, Esquire, and it's a move that I support on multiple levels. The price seems steep, but predicting prospect development is a mug's game if you're not a pro scout, and even then, it's still a mug's game if you work for the Calgary Flames.

I was privately starting to doubt that Silfverberg was going to find the same sort of success in the NHL that he found in Sweden. This is no longer a concern of mine. In giving up Noesen and a 1st, we gave up two maybes for a sure thing. Quality for Quantity. You can't keep all those prospects, and you can't play them all, so isn't this how these things are supposed to work? Besides the obvious intangibles and emotional issues, anyone would be forced to admit that swapping out Alfredsson and Silfverberg for Bobby Ryan and Clark MacArthur has improved the team an amount that borders on "substantial".

These are the things I thought to myself as I turned on my phone for the first time in hours. Going from the unprecedented low of losing Alfie, to the above average high of gaining Bobby Ryan meant that I finally hit my equilibrium around "slightly disappointed". Still leaves enough emotion to make me want to point the blame at somebody...

Oh hey, Eugene. I didn't see you there. I don't want to engage in speculation as to the reasons why it's not, but the truth of the matter is that if Ottawa's "Internal Cap" was 10% higher, we'd be looking at a team that had Bobby Ryan, Clark MacArthur, Daniel Alfredsson, and most of last year's roster, which is to say we'd be looking at a team that was a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. As it stands, we're still just a good hockey team. Seems like a money issue to me...

Using resident Jedi, Bryan Murray, The Euge has somehow salvaged the darkest day in franchise history, but if he knows what's good for him, he should come up with a way to not let it happen again.

Anyone want to be part-owner of the Ottawa Senators?

This FanPost was written by a member of the Silver Seven community, and does not necessarily reflect the beliefs or opinions of the site managers, editors, or Sports Blogs Nation, Inc.

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