If you like the signing of Daniel Alfredsson, forget about his character and skill-set for a minute. Forget about his right-handed shot on the power play, his nose for the net, and a potential dynamic connection with fellow Swedes Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen.
If you do not like the signing of Alfredsson, forget about his 40-year-old age for a minute. Forget about the comparisons to Mike Modano, quickly injured in 2010, or Marian Hossa, who faced his former Pittsburgh team in 2009 and faltered – which is a similar possibility for Alfredsson, since the Wings and Senators are now in the same division.
Forget all that, because that’s not the elephant in the room.
This, is the glaring truth: The Detroit Red Wings, considered a rebuilding franchise just one summer ago, still reign as a premier NHL attraction.
The mystique is alive. The aura is there, similar to the times superstars Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, and Dominik Hasek landed in Detroit – via trade or free agency – and began to taste the champagne of those cup-winning dreams.
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter made some fans feel like a transition period was coming, that the Wings were closer to mediocre than among the NHL’s elite. But the Wings’ one-shot-away proximity of eliminating Chicago this spring grabbed the attention of Alfredsson, whose addition exemplifies the magnitude of power inside that Winged Wheel logo.
Do you realize what Alfredsson symbolized to Senators fans? Do you know who the Wings just lured from Ottawa?
“The greatest and most popular athlete the city has ever known,” wrote Ottawa Sun columnist Don Brennan.
“Mr. Ottawa,” ex-Senators coach Jacques Martin told the paper.
“He is grounded in this city and so well-loved,” chimed-in Marc Methot, a Senators defenseman.
A hockey-crazed Canadian city just lost the face of their franchise. Ottawa’s bond to Alfredsson is the equivalent of Detroit’s love for Steve Yzerman. (Yes, it’s that strong.) The 25-year old men who wore #11 Alfredsson jerseys at the age of seven are sad today, borderline depressed. The fans who screamed “Al-fie! Al-fie! Al-fie!” each period when the clock struck 11:11 had their hearts ripped out of their chest.
This is like Brett Favre leaving Green Bay. Like Barry Sanders pressing “send” on the fax machine.
Alfie out of Ottawa? No way, right?
THE POWER OF TRADITION
Flashback to October of 1995. Remember that ugly feeling coursing through your veins and stomach when Steve Yzerman was rumored to be traded? Fans talked about abandoning the team. Season tickets? Throw ’em over the Ambassador Bridge and watch them flutter into the Detroit River. If Stevie Y is gone, we’re gone too.
Thankfully, it never happened.
But the nightmare came true in Ottawa, and the town awakes in a cold sweat as No. 11 crosses the U.S.-Canadian border toward Hockeytown.
Some fans say Alfredsson’s Ottawa legacy is tarnished. Some point the finger at management, particularly general manager Bryan Murray, and say they’ll be happy if Alfie lifts the Cup – even if the Wings are inside the Senators’ division with the new alignments in 2013-’14.
Maybe Alfredsson’s fate will unfold like Ray Bourque, who played in Boston for 21 years, requested a trade to a contender, won the Cup with Colorado, then shared it with Beantown as a “thank you” moment.
Or maybe Alfie’s image will turnout like Bill Buckner, who wouldn’t show his face in Boston for years, afraid of the heckling and wrath he would endure from the locals.
But what’s certain is this: Detroit is prime-time hockey real estate again. The Original Six franchise just lured an icon whose wake leaves a city in ruins.
The long-tenured captain – it was 14 years running for Alfredsson in Ottawa – is supposed to retire with the franchise who drafted him, right? This is like the pope leaving the Vatican. Like the president leaving the White House.
But a chance to play with the Red Wings? Ahh, forget loyalty. The Stanley Cup matters most.