From helmet to the bottom of his socks Daniel Alfredsson was dressed all in red here Monday surrounded by the sea of red seats in the venerable Joe Louis Arena.
There was no “C” or “A” on his new winged wheel Detroit Red Wings jersey and to the naked eye there wasn’t a single “Alfredsson” sweater anywhere in the crowd as Detroit played host to the San Jose Sharks.
Instead a glance around the 34-year-old building Monday showed massive support for current Red Wings stars Pavel Datsyuk Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall along with respect for past legends including Steve Yzerman Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios.
Where was the Alfredsson stuff?
“Well it hasn’t come in yet” said the guy running the souvenir shop in the upper concourse.
You blink once twice to take it all in. It just doesn’t look right. We’ve come to expect an Alfredsson presence inside and outside the arena on billboards in newspaper advertisements just about everywhere you turn. Walk around any neighbourhood in Ottawa and you’re still apt to see someone sporting an Alfredsson sweater or T-shirt a tribute to his 18 years as the heart-and-soul of the Ottawa Senators the final 14 years as captain.
Even after his shocking summer departure as a free agent — following the contract dispute and somewhat bitter war of words with Senators owner Eugene Melnyk that he chooses not to revisit publicly — he owns the respect as the best player to ever play for the Senators.
But here 10 games into his Red Wings career he’s recognized as a solid veteran player on a good team overloaded with players who have extensive playoff experience. Nothing more nothing less.
Come Wednesday when he plays his old teammates for the first time in his new colours and new surroundings Alfredsson acknowledges it’s going to feel strange indeed.
“I’ve thought about it no question” Alfredsson told The Citizen in an exclusive interview in the Red Wings dressing room an hour after San Jose’s 1-0 shootout win over Detroit. “Probably in the last few days here I’ve been thinking about it more and more. (Tuesday and Wednesday) there is going to be a lot of attention on me and the game itself.
“To be honest I’ve asked myself ‘How am I going to feel?’ I have no idea. I think the hardest part is going to be leading up to the game. Once the puck is dropped it’s such a fast game that you get caught up in it and you know what you’re going to do. The hardest part is going to be the hours leading up to it.”
Players get traded or sign with new teams every year but friendships don’t end. Alfredsson remains close with many of his old teammates — Erik Karlsson will have dinner with him and his family in their new home in Birmingham a community of 20000 25 minutes from downtown Detroit — and he keeps up to date on what’s going on with the team. Alfredsson says Karlsson is “one of the reasons I’m still playing” due the “energy enthusiasm and great personality” he brings to the dressing room.
“Of course I follow them pretty closely and I will continue to do so” he said. “You watch on TV and you kind of catch yourself. We were having dinner the other night and I was watching (Jason) Spezza wearing the C and from a distance I said ‘wow I almost thought that it was myself’. It has been so long for me playing in Ottawa of course that it’s different.”