Tonight, Daniel Alfredsson, the living legend, will have his jersey number retired. It’s the ending to the career we all anticipated eight years ago, even if the journey wasn’t as expected. And it’s a moment I’ve been anticipating for a long time.
It’s hard to know what to write about Daniel Alfredsson. It seems that we’ve had so many chances to write retrospectives about Alfie’s career. There was the 1000 games. 1000 points. 400 goals. The joy of him announcing he wasn’t retiring after the playoff run in 2013, then the gut-wrench of him signing with the Red Wings. There were a lot of reflection pieces, including my own. The reconciliation a year-and-a-half late and retirement when we looked back on some of his greatest moments with the team: the seven-point game, the goal to send the team to the Stanley Cup finals, the aforementioned moments. SensChirp did a great retrospective of his entire career back then.
Before Alfie, there were six captains in seven seasons. Since Alfie, there have been two captains in four seasons. Alfie’s 13 seasons as captain comprise more than half the franchise’s history. He wasn’t always popular. There were once rumours of him being offered straight up for Craig Conroy, which seems ridiculous to think back on now. But slowly he grew from one of the problems to the team’s one-and-only saviour, over and over again putting the team on his back and willing them to victory. Mentoring Erik Karlsson into becoming the greatest defenceman of a generation. Continuing to promote mental illness causes in Ottawa. Building up a legend that even he couldn’t tear down by that abrupt about-face.
Alfie’s jersey retirement has felt like a foregone conclusion for a decade. 10 years ago, we all knew this moment would come, we just couldn’t have predicted the circumstances. Over and over again, he said he’d rather push for the playoffs with a mediocre Sens team than get traded for one shot at glory with a Cup contender. And yet, instead of him wrapping up his career with a Stanley Cup in Ottawa, he finished Cup-less after playing an injury-plagued season in Detroit. I remember calling him Judas after he went to Detroit because the team refused to overpay him, explaining to anyone who would listen that his claims of “playing for a Cup” were garbage because he had an offer from the Bruins that he turned down to play with some Swedes. I lamented about the possibility of him retiring a Wing and undoing the entire legacy he’d built with the Sens. And then when he was rumoured to be signing a one-day contract with the Sens, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t stay mad at the icon of my favourite team. Like Mike Modano before him, Alfie’s Detroit stay wouldn’t be remembered long. The retirement ceremony was everything it needed to be and more; as one reader here put it, it gave closure I didn’t know I needed. Everything felt better now that Alfie was back.
If you’re interested to hear more waxing poetic about Alfie, then here’s Ian Mendes with a great (as usual) retrospective, wondering if the apathy about the Sens ties back to 2013. I’m sure others will come. I’ll welcome them, but for some reason, it just doesn’t seem right to me. I’ve been at a loss for words, and I think it’s because no words can sum up the range of emotions leading to this night. Like I keep saying, it’s the proper end to a very improper journey.
This isn’t the night to debate the merits of Alfie’s Hall of Fame inclusion. I’ll save that for another day (though Elliotte Friedman and Pierre LeBrun are on board). This isn’t the night to look back with “What If”s as to the end of his career. This isn’t the night to wonder what his role will be in five or ten years. No, it’s a night to just bask in the immortalization of the franchise’s biggest legend.
That’s it: the legend gets his due. It’ll probably be 15-20 years until the next time the Sens retire a jersey number. Alfie will be the lone honouree for a long time. And that’s exactly how it should be.