When Daniel Alfredsson was drafted in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, barely anybody took notice. He was selected in the sixth round of the draft, 133 overall by the Ottawa Senators. He had already played three seasons with his hometown team Frölunda HC in Gothenburg, Sweden but was not known in North America.
When he arrived in Canada in 1995, he quickly garnered attention in the hockey world. Twenty-one years later, his jersey is the first to be retired by the modern Ottawa Senators organization. On December 29, 2016 the Senators will be raising #11 to the rafters before they face the Detroit Red Wings.
#Ottawa Senators to honour Daniel Alfredsson by retiring No. 11 before tonight's game https://t.co/rq3AHatlDc #ottnews pic.twitter.com/ESVjG8Yn1s
— CBC Ottawa (@CBCOttawa) December 29, 2016
Alfredsson’s NHL career began in the 1995-96 season. As an older, late-round draft pick, expectations weren’t high. However, it only took his rookie season to establish himself as the next big thing for a young Senators organization. He scored 26 goals along with 35 assists for 61 points to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year.
In his sophomore season, his point totals increased by 10, despite playing in six fewer games. That 1997 postseason also marked the first playoff appearance for the Senators, who were playing in their fifth season.
His third season was delayed due to a contract dispute. Alfredsson demanded a trade from the Senators in August 1997, unhappy with the contract offer. He eventually signed a $14 million, 4-year deal on October 12.
Captaincy and Early 2000s Success
In the summer of 1999, Alexei Yashin spurned Ottawa by refusing to honour the last year of his contract. He was subsequently suspended and stripped of his captaincy, and the Sens handed it over to Alfredsson. He carried the ‘C’ until the end of the 2012-13 season, the longest-serving Senators captain in history.
Meanwhile, he repeatedly led Ottawa to the postseason. After losing in the early rounds for several years in a row, Alfredsson and the Senators pushed to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2003. During that 2002-03 regular season, he had 78 points as Ottawa won the Presidents’ Trophy as the top team in the regular season.
That same year the Senators filed for bankruptcy protection, so their success helped keep hockey in Ottawa. Despite losing in seven games to the eventual champion New Jersey Devils, Alfredsson provided leadership and kept the Senators relevant.
Post 2004-05 Lockout, Stanley Cup Finals
During the 2004-05 NHL lockout, Alfredsson returned to his hometown and helped Frölunda HC capture the Swedish Championship. When the NHL resumed playing hockey for the 2005-06 season, Alfredsson made history.
In the first game of the season, Ottawa and the Toronto Maple Leafs played the first NHL shootout in history. Alfredsson was the first up and converted, making it the first NHL shootout goal. Less than a month later, Alfredsson had one of his greatest games, scoring 4 goals and 6 points against Buffalo on Nov 3, 2005. Later that season, he won an Olympic Gold medal with Team Sweden at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
The 2006-07 season would become the one that got away from Alfredsson and the Sens. After a poor start to the season, Alfredsson used Chris Kelly’s skates to get himself back on track. He led the Senators past the Penguins, Devils, and Sabres to set up a Stanley Cup Finals date with the Anaheim Ducks.
Alfredsson made history again by becoming the first European-born captain to lead his team to a Cup Final. He did not capture that elusive trophy as the Ducks prevailed in five games to win the Stanley Cup. The playoff run still marks the closest the Senators and Alfredsson came to a Stanley Cup.
In the next six seasons he played with the Senators, they made the playoffs four times, never making it past the second round.
Signing with Detroit, Retiring as a Senator
After the 2012-13 season, Alfredsson was due for a new contract and at 41 years old, he knew that this may be his last chance to win the Cup. Despite that he and the Sens wanted him to stay, Alfredsson signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Detroit Red Wings.
He had 49 points in 68 games, helping Detroit squeeze into the playoffs. Unfortunately for Alfredsson and the Red Wings, they lost in five games in the first round to the Boston Bruins.
After back issues kept him off the ice before the 2014-15 season, Alfredsson signed a one-day contract to officially retire as a Senator. On December 4, 2014, he skated in the pre-game warmup and took the ceremonial pre-game faceoff. Alfredsson officially retired from the NHL after 18 seasons, 17 with the Senators.
Alfredsson was one of the great leaders in NHL history. A consistent scorer, he finished his NHL career with 1157 points in 1246 games. Despite a couple of contract disputes and some injury issues, he never turned his back on the Senators or the City of Ottawa.
His family is part of the Ottawa community. His children play hockey and attend school in Ottawa, while he and his wife were known for giving back. He was presented with the Key to the City for his contributions on and off the ice, especially with the Ottawa Senators Foundation, the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health, and the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa.
He became a Canadian citizen in the most Canadian way during a mass ceremony at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Alfredsson holds Senators records in regular season goals, assists and points. He holds Senators playoff records in goals, assists, points and games played. He won a number of awards and distinctions, including a Calder Memorial Trophy, a Mark Messier Leadership Award, All Star Game Captain and an Honorary Degree from Carleton University.
Now that his playing career is over, Alfredsson continues to be a leader with the Senators organization as an adviser to the general manager.