In my month-long quest to figure out what happened on July 5th, and why it has affected the city so greatly, I had a bit of a “eureka” moment.
It is all about separating Daniel Alfredsson -the person- from “Alfie” – the hockey player.
First off, the player was responsible for almost every major moment in one way or another in the franchise’s history. He is the franchise leader in games played, goals, assists, points and is the longest serving captain in the history of the Senators. But remember, it wasn’t always that way. There was a time when his abilities were in question, as was his leadership ability. There were times when the consensus around the fan base was that the team might be better off without him. Then something changed. Its hard to pinpoint the exact moment, but I would guess that the fake stick-throwing incident in Toronto was the defining moment and turned him from star player to something more. Perhaps it was because he instantly became public enemy #1 for the arch-rival Maple Leafs, earning him an instant place in the hearts of Sens fans. As he continued to pile up points and honors, his legend grew to epic proportions.
Then, there is Daniel Alfredsson, the person. He became a backbone in the city, raising awareness and funds for a number of charities around the city including The Royal and the Boys and Girls Club. His sincerity in becoming a part of the community. His loyalty, until one month ago, was unquestioned and he spurned all past suggestions that he might move along and try to win the elusive Stanley Cup with another team. The talk was an annual rite of passage for the past 3 or 4 years, especially since the Senators embarked on a rebuild. The loyalty that saw him state repeatedly that if he was going to win a Cup, it would be in a Senators’ uniform.
As it stands, the player that the Detroit Red Wings signed on July 5th is a dwindling asset that, as much as we didn’t want to admit while he was a Senator, has lost a step and isn’t the dominant offensive power he was 5 years ago. Still good, but not great.
The person the Red Wings got, I am not so sure about. He is still a character person, but again, in the eyes of a certain portion of the fan base that lifted him up into the stratosphere did so on the basis of not just the player, but the person. The deterioration of the player is to be expected, especially as you move on the other side of 40. However the perceived shift in what was thought to be the ultimate loyalty is what left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.