A blast from Alfredsson's past
Memories pour back for Senators captain during walking tour of hometown
At another, the memory of one his hometown's greatest hockey celebrations comes flooding back to mind. It was a bit of a sentimental journey, indeed, for Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson as he took media on a mini-walking tour through Goteborg, the Swedish city where he began the road to being the person and the hockey player that he is today.
For someone who knows the city so well, it was but a brief slice of all that Goteborg has to offer. Alfredsson admitted later it would have taken a bus tour to do proper justice to the place he has always spoken about with great pride.
"If we had a tour bus, I could show other areas (of the city)," he said. "It’s kind of limited, just walking around, but you want to show so much. You spend 22 years here, there’s a lot of things you want to show. It’s a little bit sentimental, yeah. I think it’s fun to show off for the guys and for you guys as well where I grow up.”
The glimpse still revealed plenty about the Senators captain's formative years. Though it has been expanded since he was a student there, Burgardens high school still stands across the street from the Scadinavium, where Alfredsson first developed a love for hockey and became a star with the Indians — all of it a springboard toward a stellar career in the National Hockey League.
Though he is one of Goteborg's biggest sports heroes, it isn't always clear that the average person on the street notices the star in their midst. Three young blonde schoolgirls notice a media horde following Alfredsson into the courtyard at Burgardens, but aren't quite sure what to make of the scene. Later, at the Valhalla Sporthall across the street — the school gym for Burgardens — young boys are overheard whispering his name in the hallways after Alfredsson walks by.
A former gym teacher named Eva greets Alfredsson with a warm hug, then scurries away red-faced when she sees all the cameras in tow.
“It’s not always fun to go to school but I did enjoy that time in my life," Alfredsson said as he pondered his days at Burgardens. "I had great classmates, six guys who played hockey, all of us, and it was a lot of fun.”
All those years later, it is still a familiar sight to Alfredsson.
"The school has been (expanded)," he said while looking around the intersection between the school and the arena. "Other than that, it hasn’t changed much at all. It’s pretty much the same."
For Alfredsson, going to Burgardens meant a 30-minute bus ride each morning from the east side of Goteborg, where his parents, Hasse and Margareta, still reside (their home is 5 km from the residence of the parents of his wife, Bibbi).
While he called himself an "average" student, there was nothing middle-of-the-road about athletic ability or his passion for all things sports. Alfredsson excelled at both hockey and soccer in his younger days but, at age 15, decided to focus on the sport that has given him so much.
"Both became more of a year-round sport at the elite level (at that age). I liked hockey more at the time, that’s why I picked it," said Alfredsson, adding a move from defence to forward when he was 14 helped fuel his enjoyment of the puck game.
Goteborg's hockey faithful would become happy with his choice, too. As he walked into the Gotaplatsen — a square in the centre of downtown that surrounds a statue of Poseidon, the ancient Greek god of the sea — Alfredsson recalled the day back in 2005 when it was jammed with 10,000 joyous hockey fans. Frolunda (it's the name of the west part of the city) had just won the Swedish Elite League title and Alfredsson, his NHL career put on hold by a work stoppage, had returned home to lead the way.
They filled a convertible bus for the celebratory parade, which began at the Scandinavium and wound its way to the square. On the balcony of the Konserthuset (concert hall), players were introduced to thunderous cheers from the adoring fans.
It is the people of his hometown that Alfredsson, now an Ottawa resident for the majority of the year, misses the most when he is away.
"A lot of friends my own age that I played hockey with and went to school with. Family, obviously," he said when asked to define the things he misses when he is away from Goteborg. "And the ocean – we don’t have that in Ottawa."
The average, everyday people in his hometown also fill Alfredsson's heart with pride.
"The people are really friendly," he said. "They enjoy talking to you. They won’t start a conversation but if you go up to them, they’re more than happy to help."
While he is undecided about where he'll call home when his playing days are done, Alfredsson knows this much.
"I'll always spend my summers in Sweden," he said. "(Goteborg) is a great summer city."