For the love of the game.
Ottawa Senators’ legend Daniel Alfredsson took to the ice in Carp with the local midget house league team on what should have been the Montreal Canadiens’ home opener against the Sens.
It wasn’t the home opener he expected to play in.
On the night West Carleton’s favourite pro player was due to lead his Ottawa Senators during the Montreal Canadiens’ home opener, Daniel Alfredsson instead jumped on the ice for a scrimmage at the W. Erskine Johnston Area in Carp.
It was the West Carleton Warriors midget house team’s first practice of the year, Thursday, Oct. 11, at 9:30 p.m. The boys were messing around on the ice, flipping pucks at the net. A few parents huddled around windows to watch from the lobby, sipping coffee, discussing the year ahead. Few noticed Alfie slip past to a separate dressing room, carrying a stick and small bag with gloves, skates, and a blue helmet with his native Sweden emblem on the side and trademark 11 on back.
Coach Kevin Kellachan, one of the few in the building to know who was going to help assist him during practice, called the team together at centre ice. None seemed to notice the referee door open at the near end of the rink. Alfie made his way to centre ice, smiling the entire way, before circling the group of wide-eyed teenagers.
After Kellachan’s introduction, the Sens captain attempted to break the spell with a few words of instruction.
“I kinda miss these 9:30, 10 p.m. practices from my days in junior,” said the Sens’ all-time top point getter. “I expect to see a fast-paced practice today.”
As the practice got underway, Dunrobin’s Kellachan took a moment to take in the experience.
“You’ve got to respect his years of experience,” he said of the 40-year-old pro. “He’s proven himself a dozen times over. And for the kids? It’s a big uplift for them starting out the season.”
A few dads gathered on the home bench to get a closer look. But on Alfie’s first attempt at an empty net on the far end of the rink, he rifled it off the plexiglass. Laughingly, one observed that “Gesh, I thought he was supposed to be good.”
Alfie rarely missed again, to the chagrin of goalie Cole Murray of Arnprior. Among a few dozen players to tally more than 1,000 points in a career, he didn’t hold back on the youngster, pocketing a few before Murray did what won’t soon be forgotten. He stopped one of Alfie’s shots – from the slot no less.
“They’re probably just shocked,” said Danielle Dagenais, who with a point-and-shoot was weaving through bodies on the bench to capture her son Chad next to him.
When Chad stopped for a squirt of water, the excitement was visible on his face.
“It means the world to skate with professional hockey player, especially Alfie,” he said.
The two struck a connection during the scrimmage. Maybe it was because they were among the shortest players on the ice; maybe it was the speed; either way, Alfie and Dagenais completed numerous give-and-goes, and racked up a few points along the way.
It must have been tough to not be star-struck. The puck seemed glued to Alfie’s stick. So much so that at one point opponents backed off when he went in the corner.
“Go get him,” the braver ones from the bench shouted. “Go get him!”
Someone, chuckling, said, “Hit him!”
After a four-minute shift Alfredsson hopped on the bench. Turning to the player next to him, he said, “That was a little bit longer of a shift then I’m used to.”
He admitted to wishing he was in Montreal instead, but said it is always fun to be on the ice.
“I thought it would be good to come out and surprise some kids,” Alfie said. “Make it fun for them.”
ENJOYS LIFE IN CARP
The Alfredssons live about six kilometres from the Carp rink and an equal distance to Scotiabank Place. He married longtime girlfriend Birgitta in July 2004. They are the parents of four sons: Hugo, Loui, Fenix and William Erik. The family has another home in Särö, Sweden.
He enjoys living near Old Carp and Huntmar roads, saying that although his kids attend school in Kanata they, like all kids in West Carleton, take the Friday off school during Carp Fair.
“We spend a lot of time in West Carleton, going to the farmers’ market and that,” he said. “People are very friendly and respect our privacy. We really enjoy being out in a rural community.”
Alfredsson has won an Olympic gold medal for Sweden; made the NHL all-rookie team in 1996; played in six all-star games; was named top penalty-killer in 2008; and took home the King Clancy Memorial Trophy last year.
His younger brother Henric played with the Ottawa 67's junior team as a 19-year-old during their 1999 Memorial Cup-winning season. Henric decided to stay in Ottawa after his junior hockey career with the 67's was complete, and now works for the Ottawa Police Service.
Alfredsson has appeared in a video supporting You Can Play, a campaign dedicated to fighting homophobia in sports.
HOW IT CAME ABOUT
West Carleton Minor Hockey President Sherry Malloy opened an email recently that she all but dismissed as spam. It was from Eric Epstein of the National Hockey League Players’ Association. He wanted to know if an unnamed NHL player could jump on the ice to surprise a team on the evening of Oct. 11.
“I thought the email was a virus,” Malloy said. But when she came to believe it could be true, she was asked to keep it from the kids.
“I was so excited I wanted to tell everyone,” she said. “We think this is great for the community, to raise spirits for the team. You’re never too old a player to have an NHLer on the ice with you.”
Her advice to midget and other players: Show up for practice, because you never know who might be there.