This is something that I never, ever envisioned that I would have to write. You were supposed to be the one. The one guy who epitomized what an Ottawa Senator was. Not the biggest, or the fastest, or the strongest or even the most talented. But in you, the total of the whole package was way more than the sum of the parts. You were the first, true superstar player and person the Ottawa Senators franchise has ever had, and I feel a great sadness for you that you felt the need to tarnish that legacy somewhat to chase a cup with another team, something that as late as 6 weeks ago you went on the biggest radio show on the continent and professed that you didn’t want to do.
I understand that it is your prerogative to do it, and I understand your bolting to play with some of your fellow countrymen to chase a Stanley Cup, even if I think that you are mistaken in thinking that the Red Wings have a better shot at winning the Cup this season than the Senators do. That was your choice, you made it, and now you have to live with it.
When the news first broke that you were leaving, I went through emotions that I didn’t think I would feel over a business decision. I went through disbelief, anger, understanding, then just plain disappointment. I know its a business, and business decisions are made all the time. I also know that the Senators organization may have bungled the negotiations to keep you in Ottawa. I know you don’t owe the fan base of Ottawa or the Senators anything, because you gave so much of yourself to the team and the community on and off the ice in your 18 years here. That has not gone un-noticed, but as you said yourself, there will be anger directed your way, and also towards the organization that couldn’t keep you in the fold.
Whatever truly went on during the week of negotiations that made you sour on the situation, I think you still owed it to yourself and your legacy in Ottawa to try and get it done. To end your storied career where it began, like you had professed you wanted to over the last few years where the option was there for you to ask out to chase your dreams. I would have understood and supported the decision more then than I do now. I wouldn’t have liked it, but I would have understood.
But trying to explain to a 10 year old kid who looks up to Alfie more than the Senators or hockey itself why his idol that he has never not cheered since he became cognizant of your existence, about the business decision that was made nearly broke my heart. He has never known life without you as the Senators captain and is too young to understand the system and the decisions, even the tough ones, that sometimes have to be made.
Hell, I am no spring chicken and cover the sport on a regular basis, and I am having a hard time believing that it actually happened and still am not quite sure how and why it happened. It didn’t make sense from any way you looked at it for it to happen and after listening to yourself and Bryan Murray talk yesterday I am still not sure where the blame lies. There are mixed emotions around the city and the Sens Army, running from Yashin/Heatley level hatred for perceived abandonment to hoping you get your wish and get a cup. I definitely lie somewhere in the middle, but not yet sure exactly where.
The Senators as a team on the ice might be a bit better with the moves that happened yesterday, but the franchise as a whole took a giant step backwards. The team will roll on without you, and your fingerprints will still imprinted on the franchise for years to come with the positive impact you had in the dressing room and the example you set, until July 5th, 2013. Those fingerprints just won’t be on the Cup when and if the Senators finally clear that hurdle, and that is sad.
I am sure in time I will get over it, but I feel betrayed by both sides right now. Business decisions are made, but this should have been a no-brainer that shouldn’t have had to be made. I do not want to let the legacy of the past 17 seasons be tarnished by a single decision, but that is hard to fathom right now. I don’t know if I will be cheering or jeering the first time you return to Canadian Tire Centre with the Red Wings.
I do know that when the shock has worn off, and who knows when that will be, I will be cheering when your #11 is raised to the rafters of the building you didn’t help build, but helped fill. There are so many memories, but this one is the freshest. I will be celebrating that night for your contributions, but the tattoo I was planning to get, featuring the banner with your name and number is now on hold. I’m glad I didn’t jump the gun on that one.
You were supposed to be a lifer, you said so yourself. But it is your legacy to do with what you want. I am disappointed that you made that decision.
I would say good luck in Detroit, but I am not sure at this point in time that I would mean it.
I will thank you for what you did in your time in Ottawa.