Last week we went over some of the brightest spots in Daniel Alfredsson’s 18-year NHL career. As promised, today we will be delving into some of the more infamous acts in that time. For Sens fans, these moments endeared Alfie to them, but for people outside of Ottawa, the feeling was different. Context will be given, but no excuses will be made. Without further ado, here we go.
During the 2004 season, the Maple Leafs and Senators had a good rivalry going. So good in fact, some of you may remember it had a name: The Battle of Ontario. The teams were in the Northeast Division which meant seeing each other five times in the regular season. Adding to that tension, the teams met four times in five years in the playoffs. So it’s no surprise that Alfie took advantage of an opportunity given by his countryman, to help make the rivalry’s fires burn stronger.
Mats Sundin and his Maple Leafs were hosting the Nashville Predators just past the mid-way point of the season. On a one-timer attempt, Sundin’s stick disintegrated and he did something that is usually reserved for the first star of the game, though this didn’t seem to cause any problems for fans.
We all know what happened in the Leafs next game, against the Senators, in Toronto, on Saturday night. With the score well in hand for Ottawa, Alfie decided to let his Swedish friend have it. This was another galvanizing moment in the Battle of Ontario. Faking the stick toss endeared Alfie to Sens fans and drew the ire of the Blue and White’s faithful for years to come.
Coming into Game 4 of the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals, Alfredsson, and the Senators were trailing in the series 2-1. Alfredsson scored the game’s first goal with one second left in the first period. The Ducks stormed back, with Andy MacDonald scoring two goals just a minute apart in the second. Dany Heatley tied it up with two minutes to go in the frame. The game and series were on the line for the Sens, as a loss in this game would mean going back to Anaheim down 3-1.
With seven seconds left in the period, Alfie picked up the puck in his own end, took a look at the clock, and realizing there was no time for an offensive zone rush, took aim at Ducks’ captain Scott Niedermayer.
In 2014, Alfredsson told TSN that he regretted taking the shot and that he had apologized to Niedermayer after the series. Speaking with TSN 1200 he said, “I apologized to Scott after we lost for what happened. I set the bar really high for the way the game should be played and how you handle yourself in different situations. I stepped over the threshold a few times and that was one of them.”
Well, that seems like a good segue into another situation Alfie may admit to stepping over the line.
As discussed above, the Battle of Ontario was a raging inferno from 1999 until the lockout year of 2004-2005. With guys like Chris Neil and Darcy Tucker on either side things were bound to get out of hand, and sometimes those two were the targeted by the opposition.
Entering the second round of the 2002 playoffs, the rivalry reached a fever pitch, and the first four games of the series had done nothing to quell the animosity. The Sens blew the Leafs out of the Air Canada Centre 5-0 in Game 1. Game 2 was a triple overtime nail-biter that the Leafs squeaked out of. Games 3 and 4 were one-goal affairs the teams split, setting up a tie-breaking Game 5 back in Toronto.
Tied 2-2 with under three minutes to go in the game, Ottawa was pressing for a game winner. Alfredsson narrowly missed, beating Curtis Joseph, but not the crossbar. Seconds later Alfie made sure he wouldn’t be welcome in Toronto again.
As Pat Quinn mentioned during his post-game presser, half the people watching were happy to see it, and let’s be honest Leaf fans, if the roles were reversed and Tucker had laid the hit and scored the game-winner, he would have been loved even more. And for any fans still holding a grudge, the man who Alfredsson totalled has clearly moved on.
Guess I should book my trip to Ottawa Dec.4th I'm sure Alfie would want me there on the big day #waitingbythephone
— Darcy Tucker (@16DarcyTucker) November 26, 2014
Tucker is referring, of course, to crashing Alfie’s retirement party set for Ottawa back in 2014. Though there was no love lost between the two on the ice, it’s clear both had respect for each other as tough competitors and opponents.
Alfie gave and took some hits in his long career. He scored a lot of goals, 444 to be exact, and when the Sens retire his jersey this season, fans from all cities should take a moment and remember his time on the ice. We sometimes take for granted how special a player may be while he is still playing, and Alfredsson is among illustrious company.
He is number 51 in all-time NHL scoring, according to quanthockey.com, sitting ahead of legends like Darryl Sittler, Mike Bossy and Glenn Anderson. He captained the Sens for 13 seasons, more than half of their existence. Alfie made mistakes, but show me a player who hasn’t. He played the game with grit and determination, and if the guy who was strewn across the ice when Alfie scored that Game 5-winner can move past it, shouldn’t we all?
A young writer, called an old soul by some, a curmudgeon by others. I love most sports, and hate past times masquerading as them (I’m looking at you darts!)