I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time.
I’ve been meaning to write this post since July 5th.
And while it’s a post I’ve been meaning to write for a long time, it’s a post I never wanted to write. In fact, it’s a post I never dreamed in a million years that I would have to write.
But the time has come, whether I like it or not. As a fan of the Ottawa Senators, it’s time to let go.
It’s finally time to say good-bye to Daniel Alfredsson.
I remember the days leading up to July 5th quite well. With the Free Agency deadline looming, our captain had declared about a week beforehand that he was planning to return to hockey for at least one more year. This was the good news that we Sens fans had been hoping & praying for. You see, at that time, that was our “worst-case scenario” – that Alfie would decide to retire.
We didn’t want Alfie to retire. We saw so much fight and fire and game left in that guy, that we collectively thought it would be a crying shame if he hung up his skates following such a promising season. Under the guidance of our coach Paul McLean, and surrounded by a group of pesky and enthusiastic young guys, things were finally looking up for the Ottawa Senators, and especially for Alfie. We were starting to think that anything might be possible. That if he just gave us one more season, maybe that dream of seeing our beloved captain hoisting the Cup over his head in Ottawa Senators red-black-and-gold might actually be a reality…
So #11 was going to return for one more year. We were rejoicing. Now we just needed Murray to announce the signing, and we’d be all set for the 2013-2014 season.
But that signing didn’t come. We waited, but it didn’t come. And the longer we waited, the more speculation that Alfie might jump ship and go to another team started to build.
I didn’t believe those whispers. Not for one second.
I didn’t believe any of it, not even when I woke up the morning of July 5th to the news that Alfie still hadn’t signed with Ottawa, and that the possibility of him signing with Detroit or Boston that day was suddenly very real.
I waited. I knew the news was coming. That Alfie was, of course, going to ditch those plans to head to the Wings or the Bruins, and sign with the Sens. Of course he was.
I waited. I watched my Twitter feed religiously. I can honestly say I got little work done that day, and I made no bones about it. I was waiting for my Alfie news, and nothing could tear me away from it.
It was around mid-morning that reliable sports reporters landed the news via their Twitter feeds that Daniel Alfredsson would be signing with the Detroit Red Wings. Done deal.
And I honestly felt like my stomach bottomed out. It was physical pain. Real pain. I thought I might throw up. Or cry. Or both. I wanted to crawl under my desk and huddle in the fetal position.
I’ve only felt that way once before over a hockey player’s departure. The only difference was, this time, I wasn’t alone.
To try and describe my emotions that day and in the days immediately following is almost impossible. I was angry, I was bitter, I was betrayed. I hated Alfie. I hated the Sens’ ownership and management. How had they botched this so badly? HOW had they let go of our revered and deeply loved leader, a man who had given his all to this city and this team for 17 years?
And how could he just…go??
The news later that same day that the Sens had landed Bobby Ryan eased the ache a little bit. But it wasn’t enough. Not by a long shot.
I think I spent much of the summer in denial. I kept waiting for someone to pop up and say, “GOTCHA!!! Of course Alfie’s coming back to Ottawa! This was all just a big prank!!”
I grew weary of the he-said, she-said. Alfie would say something, then Bryan Murray or Eugene Melnyk would refute it, and then Alfie’s agent would jump in with his own twist on things. It got really silly and really pathetic, really quick.
It sucked. Large.
When the Sens were ousted from the playoffs last year, I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait for the next season. They were such a fun bunch of guys with so much energy and desire and perseverance. I could wait to see how they did this year; how far they could go.
But with Alfie’s departure, my longing for the upcoming season departed with him.
It just wasn’t going to be the same.
I spent some time wondering how my dad would’ve reacted if he were here. Dad was a big fan of the Sens, and I also know he really liked and respected Daniel Alfredsson – and not many high-profile players earned that from my father. He was more likely to root for the underdog than the star. But Alfie’s calm and quiet leadership, combined with his consistent on-ice play, made him a guy Dad could root for. (He also loved how Alfie could get under the skin of Leaf fans… I can still hear him chuckling after Alfie mocked Mats Sundin in that classic moment when he pretended to chuck his broken stick into the stands.)
But I know, without a doubt, what my dad would’ve said on July the 5th: Let him go. He’s not worth that kind of money. He’s too old. Just let him go.
He also probably would’ve liked the Bobby Ryan signing immensely.
(And he probably would’ve thrown in something about Eugene Melnyk being a dumbass, too.)
Even though I know he would be right – that Alfie was no longer worth that kind of coin – it was still something I’ve had a hard time wrapping my head around. And truth be told, I have yet to actually see him in Red Wing colours.
But tonight, I won’t be able to avoid it any longer. Because tonight, I will have no choice but to watch Daniel Alfredsson suit up in the opposing team’s colours. Tonight, I will have no choice but to see him in the Red & White, and going head-to-head with my Sens.
Tonight, he will be the enemy for the first time.
This wasn’t the way it was supposed to go. He was supposed to end his career with the team that he started it with. He was supposed to be one of those rare few who can say they played their entire NHL career with just one team. He was supposed to be an icon…a legend…our very own hero. And then, when the curtain fell on his illustrious career, he was supposed to move into a cushy head office job, or perhaps slip into a coaching role.
He was always supposed to be an Ottawa Senator.
It’s still a little surreal to me that he isn’t.
I want to wish Daniel Alfredsson well. I want to thank him for the years of faithful service he brought to this team and this community. I want him to know how deeply appreciated he was by us, and how respected he was. I want him to rest assured that the majority of us are grateful for all he did here, and that he will forever hold a place in our hearts and memories.
But most of all?
Most of all, I want to beat him tonight.
See ya, Alfie.
Go Sens Go.