Wednesday, April 07, 2010

1000 Games, 1000 Memories

Yesterday was a very special day.

It was one for celebration. It was one for reflection.

Yesterday, in Sunrise, Florida, Ottawa Senators Captain Daniel Alfredsson played his 1000th game.

Okay, seriously. Where did 1000 games go? Where did the past fifteen years go??

Wow. Doesn't seem like that long ago that I was a twelve-year-old kid, joining the ranks of the Sens Army. Back then, it wasn't about Alfie for me. Back then, it was about this other guy, Wade Redden. (You might have heard me mention him before...)

But now, Redden's gone. Almost all of the guys who once composed the core of this team are gone.

But one remains. The one who now, truly, is the core of this team.

Daniel Alfredsson had already been in a Sens uniform for awhile by the time I pledged my allegiance to the Senators in the Spring of 1997, the first year they made the playoffs. He had already won the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year. He was already an integral part of a team that was finally dragging itself out of the humiliating depths of the NHL basement and developing into one of the most successful clubs in the league for years to come.

15 years later, he has even more to be proud of. For one thing - how many guys get to play 1000 games for one team, let alone 1000 games at all? He's dealt with injury problems. He's been down and out. Yet, he's persevered. And now he's more than just the captain of the Senators. More than just a key figure in the community.

Daniel Alfredsson is the face of the team. He is the Ottawa Senators.

When Alfie came here as a 22-year-old from Sweden, he brought along his girlfriend at the time, Bibi Backman. She is now his wife, and they have three boys, Hugo, Loui, and Fenix, all born in Ottawa. In a tribute to Alfredsson's 1000th game in the Ottawa Citizen on the weekend, Bibi said that back when she followed her boyfriend here to support him, she never expected to stay in Ottawa for long. But now, even after her husband retires, probably in a few years' time, she says they likely will stay here, because it truly has become home.

As a fan of the club, this milestone for Alfredsson stirs feelings of great pride & nostalgia. There are so many moments; so many memories; so many ups and downs.

It's impossible to recount them all, but without a doubt, the biggest high for me was when he scored against Buffalo in OT of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals to send the Senators to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in modern franchise history. That goal was a special moment for Sens fans. It was better than making the playoffs for the first time, better than getting past the first round for the first time - the only thing that could be better would be winning the Cup.

The fact that Alfie scored it made it even more magical.

He's been there with arms raised for the best times; he's remained strong, steady and constant through the bad times. I truly hope that, before they raise his #11 to the rafters here in Ottawa, which they undoubtedly will do, that he has the opportunity to win that elusive, coveted prize - the Stanley Cup. He's already done everything else, winning with his homeland Sweden on the world stage, including a Gold medal from the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin. All he needs now is hockey's Holy Grail.

We've cheered him. We've laughed at his hair. The Leaf fans have booed him relentlessly (which he takes as a compliment, by the way). We've cheered him even harder when they do.

We've watched him grow into a man that now carries the weight of an entire city's hockey expectations on his shoulders.

He's our Captain, in a greater sense than just on the ice.

He's our fearless leader.

Here's to 1000 games.

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