Alfredsson skates in Ottawa, looks forward to ‘special night’

When Daniel Alfredsson stepped onto Canadian Tire Centre ice Saturday for the first time since packing his bags for Detroit in the summer, it was one of a handful of strange experiences for the Ottawa Senators captain.

Alfredsson skates in Ottawa, looks forward to ‘special night’
Daniel Alfredsson skates at Canadian Tire Centre Saturday. (Photo by Bruno Schlumberger/Ottawa Citizen)

When Daniel Alfredsson stepped onto Canadian Tire Centre ice Saturday for the first time since packing his bags for Detroit in the summer, it was one of a handful of strange experiences for the Ottawa Senators captain this weekend.

Getting his gear on in the visitors’ room. Driving up to the rink like everything is normal, then realizing he doesn’t play here anymore. Shaking hands and exchanging hellos with familiar faces.

They’ll all pale in comparison to standing on the ice for a video tribute prior to Sunday’s game between the Senators and Red Wings of course — he’ll be in the starting lineup, Detroit coach Mike Babcock confirmed — but one step at a time.

Alfredsson admitted Ottawa still feels like home, and he didn’t rule out returning to live here one day. Asked if Sunday’s game would be the closing of a chapter of sorts, he said he wasn’t sure.

“I don’t know if I look at it that way,” he said after skating with his new teammates. “I think we were here for so long and we have so many roots here that I don’t know if it’s a closed chapter or if the book’s going to continue, and where and what’s going to happen, but I guess this is another chapter that I’ll go through.”

Nor did he rule out playing here again.

“Like I said, I don’t know,” the 40-year-old winger explained. “I’ll play this year and see how I feel, how I fit with the team and where they are and I guess you evaluate all those things. So I’m just playing this year and whatever decisions that come will come later.”

For now, he said he’s happy in Detroit.

“The city is great, there’s no question. We love the area where we live, the people of Detroit, I find very similar to here, they’re hard-working people, they’re very upbeat and positive and helpful, so that’s been great to see.

“Being here, I know Ottawa’s a great city to raise a family and coming to Detroit, I didn’t know what to expect and … it’s been great, no problems there.”

Hockey aside, catching up with old friends and neighbours has been at the top of his agenda.

“I think the biggest thing I looked forward to to coming back was probably seeing friends, meeting people and the game is what it’s going to be,” he said. “It’s a division rival and they’ve handled us pretty good two times and obviously coming back to Ottawa, playing the first game, I’m sure will be emotional and I’m not sure how I’ll react, but I think it will be a special night.

“There’s always rinks around the league where you feel good when you go into and I feel really good coming into this rink, there’s no question,” he said, adding he’s looking forward to facing off against his old team.

Alfredsson admitted it felt weird suiting up in the same room that his opponents occupied for so many years.

“It is, there’s no question,” he said. “We’d always see guys that were with us before, you know (Marian) Hossa and Wade (Redden), when we’d come down to see them after games and it was weird seeing them on that side as well, and all of a sudden I’m there myself, so it’s different.”

The former captain wasn’t guessing at how he’d be received by fans Sunday.

“I’m anxious to play the game. What happens is going to happen. It’s a very different situation from anything I’ve ever gone through before, so I  don’t know what to expect or what’s going to happen, but hopefully it will be a good night.”

Alfredsson touched on quite a few topics. Here are a few other topics he discussed:

  • On whether or not he planned to kick Robin Lehner, who bought his house, out for the weekend: “(Laughs) Definitely not. He knew that house before, he stayed with us a few times before and I’m sure he’s looking after it nicely.”
  • On what he misses most about Ottawa: “Friends. You call a city home for so long, you create some relationships and neighbours and a lot of friends and when you move, that’s what you miss the most.”
  • On playing in his 1,200th game this week: “It adds up if you play long enough and it feels like a nice milestone, but you probably appreciate those more when you’re done.
  • On what the game means to his family: “This is home to the kids, there’s no question. They’ve been here since Tuesday and seen a lot of friends and family and had a great time, so they’re really looking forward to it. They’re down here at practice today, they feel at home here in this rink so like I said, same things are going to go through my head tomorrow — a lot of good memories, a lot of good things that happened here, it’ll be a special game.
  • On whether he’s thought about retirement after this season: “It’s too early. It’s all health and mentally, how you feel, and I’m having fun right now, enjoying it, and that’s the biggest thing.”

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