Thursday, December 4, 2014

Daniel Alfredsson Autographed Card

I really wanted to feature this card in happier circumstances, when he'd announce he was to return for a final season, a farewell tour of sorts, but instead, here we are talking about Daniel Alfredsson's retirement. At least it came as a member of the Ottawa Senators, though I do feel a bit bad for the Detroit Red Wings, who waited on him since last June and who were to be the team he would have suited for had he been able to play. It also feels weird that all parties involved didn't choose a game between both teams for the announcement.

But, as they say, ''it is what it is'', and the possible Hall Of Famer signed a one-day contract with the Sens, skated in the pre-game warm-up, and addressed the crowd at the Scotiabank Place:

Alfie made an impact from the minute he got to the NHL - well, almost. After being drafted 133rd overall in 1994, he came over to North America for the 1995-96 season and didn't even have a stall to dress in during training camp, sitting on a tiny wooden chair instead, expected to be sent to the AHL for at least a whole season, perhaps even for ''a lot of seasoning''. And yet he made the team. And ended up leading it in scoring, and winning the Calder Trophy ahead of Saku Koivu.

At that time, the Sens' captain was Alexei Yashin who, while putting up some very good offensive numbers, was a public relations nightmare, three times holding out for more money in a five-year span despite having a contract, and trying to close backdoor deals with charities while redistributing parts of the proceeds to his parents. Yashin even demanded a trade the third time he held out, and Alfredsson stood up to his leader, saying the team didn't need to bother with a player who clearly didn't want to be there; the team immediately stripped Yashin of his captaincy and handed it to Alfredsson - and traded Yashin to the New York Islanders for Zdeno Chara, Jason Spezza and Bill Muckalt.

From that point on, Alfie stringed together nine straight 70-point seasons with the Sens, usually playing on a line with Spezza and Dany Heatley, perhaps the best trio in the league for a spell. He started getting injured more often as he hit his late-30s, and ultimately was forced to retire because the back pain was too severe to suit up for another season with the Wings, whom he led in scoring last season, at age 41, with 49 points in 68 games.

He retires with a Calder Trophy, a King Clancy (2012) and a Mark Messier Trophy (2013), six All-Star Games (two as a starter), a Second All-Star Team nod, an All-Rookie Team nod, as the 75th NHLer with over 1000 points, the Sens' career records for goals (426), assists (682) and points (1108), the team's marks for playoff games, goals, assists and points, the team records for best +/- in a season (+42), and most points in a single game (7).

He also would get Lady Byng, Selke and Hart votes pretty much every year, in addition to being a runner-up for the Masterton in 2011-12.

And though his team achievements in the NHL are reduced to losing one Stanley Cup Final where he carried the Sens on his back, he contributed to a Swedish league championship in 1994-95, and his international record with Team Sweden is astounding: 14 total participations, Olympic gold (2006) and silver (2014), two World Championship silver medals (1995 and 2004) and two bronze (1999 and 2001), and individual statistics of 32 goals, 42 assists and 74 points in 88 games with the mens' team, usually playing on its second line.

I had written him a fan letter and sent six cards in March 2011, care of the Sens (including one All-Star card and one with Sweden), and had never heard back, so I took it upon myself to ask for an autograph in person during the 2012-13 playoffs, pitting the Sens against my hometown Montréal Canadiens and came back with this card, from Upper Deck's 2011-12 Victory set (card #131 in the series), which he signed in blue sharpie:
Despite his overshadowing of Koivu at times and his being a legendary Habs-killer, I always admired Alfredsson, and he and Spezza are probably the only reason I paid any attention to the Sens from 2002 onwards when my interest in hockey came back, so much so that I probably have attended as many games in Kanata as I have at the Bell Centre here in Montréal in the years since.

I wish him the best, and wouldn't be surprised if he came back to Ottawa and/or Detroit in some capacity, be it as assistant coach, director of player development, or assistant general manager.

I now check #11 off my Sens Numbers Project.

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