More and more signs are pointing to Daniel Alfredsson retiring rather than returning to the Detroit Red Wings.
- Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press
I found it amazing that reading the above sentence still made me do a double-take. It's been well over a year, and yet I haven't got used to idea of Alfie playing for the Wings. He played for the Senators for 17 years. He had been with the team pretty well as long as I'd cared about hockey. He was the name on the first jersey I'd ever bought.
There's no use in beating a dead horse, though. There were many articles about how Alfie's departure was the toughest day in Sens history, including my own. We were heartbroken then, and we're all still a little jaded now.
Maybe part of that being jaded is why a small (though maybe not as small as my conscience would like) part of me feels like celebrating that Alfie might get forced into retirement. Serves him right that he left this team for a shot at something better, didn't really get it, and won't get another chance. No Ray Bourque ending for him!
But most of me feels regret. I remember being a child who thought my beloved Alfie could do no wrong. And I remember knowing that his retirement would be a great day for all involved. He would get his jersey retired, he'd get the longest ovation in Ottawa history, and then he'd move into an Assistant GM or coaching role. The debate as to his Hall of Fame candidacy could rage on for the next five years. July 5th, 2013 we knew that could no longer be the case. He'd still get the jersey retirement and the ovation, but the whole thing would feel tainted, forced. There'd be no way he'd move into Sens management anymore. No way he'd move his family back to Ottawa.
I think I represent the majority of Sens fans, in that I'm ready to move on. The Detroit chapter was just an epilogue to the Alfredsson saga, not the actual story. Let's forgive and forget on both sides, so that Alfie can once again be a face of this franchise, and can get that job in management that was his. He could sign a one-day contract with Ottawa so he could retire a Senator. The problem is, I fear that the wounds are too deep on both sides. I can see Melnyk and Alfredsson grinning and bearing it for one ceremony, one day, but that's it.
Many seem to think that Melnyk's time with the team will end soon due to his finances, and part of me hopes that it happens soon so that maybe, just maybe Alfie's relationship with the Sens could be repaired. But even then, I doubt it'll happen. There are just too many reasons it won't.
So if Alfie retires, it'll be disappointing. He's played long enough to deserve to go out on his own terms, not because injuries force him into it. Absolutely, his jersey will get retired by the team, and he will be the class act he's always been, posing for the pictures, and saying all the right lines to the media. And then he may never set foot in Ottawa again. The ending will be even more unsatisfactory than it looked a year ago.
Years from now, I will be telling my kids about the history of the Senators, and saying how this coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins used to be a Sens hero. In my mind, I will add, "And he still should be." I will spend a lot of time wondering about what could have been.