It was worth the wait.
In his fifth year of eligibility, Daniel Alfredsson has been called to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Alfredsson, 49, whose name is synonymous with the Ottawa Senators franchise, received word Monday afternoon that he was part of the HHOF Class of 2022 along with fellow Swedes Daniel and Henrik Sedin and goaltender Roberto Luongo. Finland’s Riikka Sallinen is this year’s female inductee and the late Herb Carnegie is in the builder category.
When the phone rang and it was HHOF board chair Lanny McDonald and committee chair Mike Gartner on the line, Alfredsson quipped: “I thought it was my insurance company.”
He soon got serious.
“I can’t tell you what this means, not just to me but the city of Ottawa as well,” Alfredsson said. “I thought there might be a chance that this would happen, but at the same time I thought there might be a chance it wouldn’t happen.
“I want to thank you guys and the whole committee . . . I am truly humbled and honoured.”
Though Ottawa is his permanent home, Alfredsson is in Sweden at the moment and when he hadn’t heard anything by early evening Swedish time, he assumed this was not going to be his year – again. He and his family, plus friends, were in the backyard and it started to rain, so they had just gone inside to get out of the weather when the phone rang.
Alfredsson’s wife, Bibi, answered. And suddenly no one was worried about the rain anymore.
On a call with reporters, happy family noise was evident in the background. Daniel and Bibi have four children, all boys. Young and old were celebrating this night in Sweden.
Alfredsson said the honour was not something he ever imagined when he played all those years in the NHL.
“It’s such a privilege to be able to play this sport for a living,” Alfredsson said. “It’s something I would have played for fun my whole life, without question.
“But to be able to make a living and play hockey in front of thousands of fans and also be recognized in this way is truly humbling,” he said.
Making it even more special, Alfie added, was the tremendous support from the Ottawa community, not only when he arrived here as a rookie in 1995 and throughout his career, but right up to recent weeks with a grassroots online campaign (#AlfieToTheHall) pushing Alfredsson’s name to be recognized by the selection committee.
Asked if he thought that campaign had an impact, Alfredsson answered quite honestly that he didn’t know, and added “I hope it was my playing career that made them select me. But it does feel truly special to have that support.”
When someone suggested this honour was “icing on the cake” of a great career, Alfie preferred to think of it as a “super bonus” after the fact.
“You know, we play our career, we do the best we can, we’re professionals and when you hang them up, you hang them up,” Alfredsson said. “And that’s your audition (for the Hall of Fame). You can’t control what happens after that. If it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t it doesn’t.”
Now that it has happened, he couldn’t be more pleased than to go in with these esteemed players, especially the Sedin twins, Swedish national team teammates who admitted on the conference call that they looked up to Alfredsson as a hockey hero.
For the Senators, who have recently re-connected with some of their alumni, including Alfredsson, the timing could not be better. The great Swede is expected to return to the franchise in some capacity in the months ahead, important days for adding players to a maturing roster and making a push for a downtown arena.
There was never much doubt about Alfredsson having Hall of Fame credentials, the delay was more a case of timing for Hall admittance among so many other worthy candidates.
Nearly a point-per-game player for close to two decades (1,157 points in 1,246 games), Alfredsson was among the top three players for NHL production from 2000 to 2009, behind only Joe Thornton and Jarome Iginla. Without question, Alfredsson is the greatest Senator in the modern history of the franchise – not necessarily the most skilled, but the best overall player to combine leadership, grit, will and production.
Alfredsson was in the NHL from 1995-2014 and spent 17 of his 18 seasons as a member of the Ottawa Senators. He was the Sens captain from 1999-2013.
And though he never won a Stanley Cup, Alfredsson didn’t just lead his teams to the post-season, he found his place on centre stage when they got there. In his 18 NHL seasons (including one year in Detroit, 2013-14), Alfredsson was in the playoffs 15 times. He was part of a spectacular run in Ottawa, 11-straight playoff appearances from 1997-2008. In 121 playoff games, Alfredsson scored 51 goals and added 49 assists for 100 points.
Of those 51 goals, 11 were game-winners, proving his ability in the clutch. In the 2007 march to the final Alfredsson scored four game-winning goals.
Though Alfredsson never won a Conn Smythe or Hart Award, he was awarded the 2011-12 King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership, for his on-ice efforts and off ice as a spokesman for mental health initiatives in Ottawa. Alfredsson won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 1995-96.
The man’s international resume is nothing short of stunning. Alfredsson played in FIVE Olympic hockey tournaments and is second all-time among Swedish Olympic scorers with 27 points. He was Sweden’s top scorer (five goals, five assists) and best player in the 2006 Turin Olympics, where the Tre Kronor brought home the gold. In all, he took part in 14 international tournaments for his native country.
When someone asked what memorabilia he might give to the HHOF as part of his induction, Alfredsson thought for a moment and then said he might look for a pair of old leather skates and a wooden stick, to illustrate how much the game has changed with technology.
“If I can find my Bauer Supreme 1000s,” Alfredsson said. “They can have them for sure.”