Daniel Alfredsson is the career scoring leader for the Senators and was with them 17 years before joining the Red Wings last offseason. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Detroit — A day before broadcasting the game between the Red Wings and Ottawa Senators, Canadian sports network TSN set up a temporary studio Tuesday in the Wings’ Alumni Room at Joe Louis Arena.
Ottawa correspondent Brent Wallace said Daniel Alfredsson, whom the Wings acquired last summer, is the reason.
“Oh absolutely, that’s why we’re here a day early, to talk to Daniel,” Wallace said.
The acquisition rocked the NHL, especially in the eastern Ontario region near the Canadian capital. Alfredsson, 40, the former Senators captain and their all-time leading scorer, was on the roster for 17 of the franchise’s first 21 years.
After practice Tuesday, when Alfredsson removed his equipment and skates and looked up from his stool, a phalanx of about a dozen reporters stood several feet in front of him, waiting to question him.
From the moment news came that the greatest player from one of the Canadian franchises had bolted to the Red Wings, it was clear his first game against his old club would draw a lot of interest.
Asked if he is looking forward to it, Alfredsson paused and said, “I think I am. Today, anyway. A lot of good friends on the other side.”
Then he glanced briefly at a clock on the wall.
“And, I think now, in another 32 hours, it will be a relief when the puck drops, and a lot of emotion going into the game tomorrow. But it’s a bit exciting, too...
“You’re going to have to deal with it,” he said, referring to himself. “It’s not something I want to hide from, either.”
Alfredsson’s presence in the Red Wings’ room is already striking. Beyond a goal and eight assists in the first 10 games and providing perhaps the best right-handed shot for a forward since Brendan Shanahan, Alfredsson adds yet another man whose character and motives seem beyond reproach — at least in Detroit.
Many Red Wings fans are still unfamiliar with Alfredsson, especially the man.
His 14-minute impromptu press conference at his stall Tuesday, a tour de force, would have told them all they need to know.
He stood and serenely answered all questions, some involving family, deep emotions and inviting criticism of the owners and management in Ottawa, without a hint of regret, bitterness or even much frustration with the situation.
“You know, the way I looked at it at the time and still do today is it’s a huge challenge for myself, personally, both on and off the ice. It’s a big challenge for our family, too,” he said.
“And I think I will look back on this as something that was a stepping stone for me in my life, in a lot of different areas, moving the family and making sure they fit into schools and sports, and then also testing myself, proving myself to a new organization.”
He discussed advantages and disadvantages of no longer being captain and the focus of attention, the guy the media approaches after a loss to ask, “What happened?”
But asked if the transition is easier for him because the Red Wings’ deep core of talent takes pressure off him, Alfredsson would have none of it.
“Well, I don’t know if I look at it that way,” he said. “I think my role here is I’m going to do everything I can to make them feel like they don’t have everything on their shoulders, and not the other way around: that they should take something off me.
“I think that if I stay healthy and play to my abilities, I should do that and I think that’s important.”
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock made clear that the Red Wings, despite being a team very much in transition, have more incentive to win the Stanley Cup because Alfredsson was unable to do so during his time in Ottawa.
“Obviously, any time you change the environment after that long, it’s not going to be as comfortable as the old place,” Babcock said. “But he’s been excellent. In the end, depending on how good we become, I think he’s got a chance to be real happy here.
“But we’re a long way from being good enough for him to get what he wants.”
As for December 1 and Alfredsson’s first game in Ottawa, there will be even more emotion. But don’t expect a lot of booing of Alfredsson.
“It’s very pro-Daniel, for sure,” Wallace said of the sentiment within the Senators fan base.
“He did a lot for the community and regardless of the way it ended, he’s done a ton for charity, he’s been a classy individual throughout the 17 years.
“There’s certainly some people who’ve switched and gone negative. But it’s maybe 80-20 in favor of Daniel.
“He is the face of that franchise and it’s tough for people to move on.”