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The 2022 Hockey Hall of Fame induction is Monday. This year’s class includes Herb Carnegie in the Builders category, as well as former players Roberto Luongo, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Alfredsson and Riikka Sallinen. Here, NHL.com staff writer Mike Zeisberger profiles Alfredsson.
Daniel Alfredsson’s long and winding road to the Hockey Hall of Fame will finally reach its culmination when the long-time Ottawa Senators captain is officially inducted Monday.
For the 49-year-old, it has been a far more unlikely journey than that traveled by the three other former NHL players in the Class of 2022: forwards Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin, and goalie Roberto Luongo.
Consider this: Daniel Sedin (selected No. 2 by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1999 NHL Draft), Henrik Sedin (No. 3 by the Canucks in the 1999 draft) and Luongo (No. 4 by the New York Islanders in the 1997 NHL Draft) each was a top-five pick in his respective draft year, a far cry from Alfredsson’s situation.
Selected in the sixth round (No. 133) by the Senators in the 1994 NHL Draft, he had to show the hockey world he deserved to go higher. Given he’ll become the seventh Sweden-born player to be enshrined in the Hall, joining the Sedins, Borje Salming, Mats Sundin, Peter Forsberg and Nicklas Lidstrom, he has done just that, if not more.
“It’s a huge honor,” Alfredsson said. “It’s definitely, I don’t know how you say it, a validation, no question.”
Sundin, a member of the Class of 2012, agrees.
“How many guys in the Hall took his path to get there, being such a low draft pick and all?” Sundin said. “It’s an amazing story.”
One that saw Alfredsson become the second-highest scoring Sweden-born player in NHL history with 1,157 points (444 goals, 713 assists). Only Sundin (1,349 points; 564 goals, 785 assists) had more.
“It’s still surreal to be honest,” Alfredsson said. “Especially looking at the Swedish history where there’s only four players before myself and the Sedins going in now. It puts it in perspective because Sweden has produced a lot of good hockey players.
“Without question, to be able to be to be talked about in the same breath as Lidstrom, Sundin, Salming and Forsberg, is humbling. When I say it’s surreal, it’s hard to take in. It’s not like I did something recently where I thought, ‘Maybe I should do this.’ This has been years.
“There’s been talk about, should I get in this year or next year? You don’t know until you finally get the call, and to be included in that group is amazing.”
Video: NHL stars discuss Alfredsson’s HHOF induction
This was Alfredsson’s fifth year of eligibility since his name first appeared on the ballot in 2017, and his case spawned plenty of debate.
“Does everybody agree?” Alfredsson said about his induction. “No, but that’s what’s great about sports. It brings out emotion in every side.
“It’s definitely the dot over the ‘i’ to finish off a career and be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.”
Alfredsson played 1,246 NHL games with the Senators and Detroit Red Wings from 1995-2014. He was fifth in the NHL in scoring during that 18-year window, behind Jaromir Jagr (1,366 points; 548 goals, 818 assists), Teemu Selanne (1,223 points; 561 goals, 662 assists), Joe Thornton (1,194 points; 342 goals, 852 assists) and Jarome Iginla (1,167 points; 560 goals, 607 assists).
Though he never won a Stanley Cup, Alfredsson was part of an Ottawa team that made 11 straight playoff appearances from 1997-2008. His 426 goals, 682 assists and 1,108 points are all Senators records. The six-time NHL all-star won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 1996, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership and humanitarian work in 2012; and the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2013.
He and his wife were relaxing with friends in Sweden in July when he received the call from the Hall that he’d been inducted. Having been passed over four times previously, he said his expectations were modest and joked that he figured the call was from his insurance company.
This time, it was no joke. And for Forsberg, it was well earned.
“I don’t think you can argue with the decision about any of the three Swedes going in,” said Forsberg, a member of the Class of 2014. “All three had great careers. And don’t forget: Daniel was the captain of the Senators (1999-2014) and Henrik Sedin the same with the Canucks (2010-18).
“The combination of skill and leadership is admirable.”
When Alfredsson first came to the NHL, he thought it would be a short chapter in his life.
There were no expectations about a lengthy career, let alone a future Hall of Fame induction. He’d been passed over several times in the NHL Draft and was paying the price for the perception of many teams that he was too small and frail at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds; he would eventually bulk up to 203 pounds for the majority of his career.
When he came to Ottawa in 1995, the Senators were a team in chaos. They’d finished 9-34-5 the season before and were outscored by 57 goals (174-117). Hardly the ideal stage for optimism.
“The first year I was trying to make the team not knowing much about the NHL,” Alfredsson said. “To sit here 27 years later is surreal, because I thought two, three years, if things went well.”
He quickly showed the hockey world he would endure far longer than that, winning the Calder Trophy, voted as NHL rookie of the year in 1995-96 with 61 points (26 goals, 35 assists). It was the first of 13 seasons he would score at least 20 goals.
[RELATED: Alfredsson’s journey to Hockey Hall of Fame inspiring, Sundin says]
But postseason disappointments were in store.
Despite featuring talented players like Alfredsson, Marian Hossa, Zdeno Chara and Dany Heatley, the Senators lost four Stanley Cup Playoff series in five years to the rival Toronto Maple Leafs in the much-hyped Battle of Ontario from 2000-2004. Ottawa did manage to reach the Final in 2007 but lost to the Anaheim Ducks in five games.
Through it all, his teammates to this day preach about the class with which Alfredsson went about his business, the type of leadership by example that trickled down to his teammates.
Defenseman Chris Phillips, who played with the Ottawa from 1997-2015, said it’s no coincidence the Senators started becoming a united team when Alfredsson joined them. He called him a “quiet” leader and said when the captain did talk, the entire team listened.
“Foundationally, in Ottawa, he’s the guy that really helped bring that club to respectability, and did so much on and off the ice,” Jason Spezza said in 2020. Now the Maple Leafs special assistant to the GM, Spezza played with the Senators from 2002-14.
A contract dispute with the Senators led to Alfredsson signing a one-year contract with the Red Wings on July 5, 2013, his final NHL season. On Dec. 14, 2014, he signed a one-day contract with Ottawa, then announced he was retiring from the NHL as a Senator.
“The results may not always have been there,” he said, “but the work ethic always was.”
Fans and Senators players past and present primarily agree on one thing: Daniel Alfredsson was and still is the face of the Ottawa franchise.
That was never more apparent than at the Senators home opener against the Boston Bruins on Oct. 18. He dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening face-off and was greeted by a thunderous ovation from the appreciative throng at Canadian Tire Centre prior to Ottawa’s 7-5 victory.
Senators forward Claude Giroux was among those who thought the love being shown Alfredsson was well deserved.
Giroux was just across the river from Ottawa with Gatineau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League from 2005-08, arguably the peak of Alfredsson’s NHL career. Once he reached the NHL, Giroux spent his offseasons in the Ottawa area and saw firsthand what Alfredsson meant to the franchise and the community.
“The way he battled and he’s a great leader,” Giroux said. ” … I got a chance to meet him a few times the last few years and can just tell why people here love him.”
Since becoming eligible for the Hall five years ago, Alfredsson has been quite aware and appreciative of the “Elect Alfie” campaign that has been going on in Ottawa. He said he has never lost sight of those efforts.
“It’s really special with the support that I’ve had from Ottawa throughout my career right up to this day,” he said. “I know that they’ve been really big supporters of mine to help me get into the Hall of Fame. They’re behind me all the way and it goes both ways.
“It’s a really great honor.”
Along with receiving his Hall of Fame blazer and ring, of course, one of the highlights of Hall of Fame weekend will be Alfredsson’s participation in the Hall of Fame Legends game at Scotiabank Arena on Nov. 13. There he’ll play for Team Sundin, where he’ll be reunited with Sundin and the Sedins, his teammates on Sweden’s national team that won the gold medal at the 2006 Torino Olympics.
It will be the perfect culmination of an unlikely journey many — other than him — didn’t think possible.
“I’ll be ready,” he said.
More often than not, he always was.
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