Why I’m still cheering for Alfie

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

Jan 01

(A version of this article
first appeared in the Ottawa Citizen, July 11, 2013,https://www.ottawacitizen.com/sports/still+cheering+Alfie/8648216/story.html)

has No. 11 Alfie (born on December 11th, 1972 in Gothenburg,
Sweden) meant to the City of
Ottawa? This is
a question that David Watson, Editorial Pages Editor of the Ottawa Citizen,
asked me the other day. Let us count the ways…

was drafted by the Senators in the 6th round of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft by
then director of player personnel John Ferguson (Senior). John knew two
things—hockey players and horses and he said to me once that they were a lot
alike, “Look at their teeth and ankles.”

were told (while we were campaigning to Bring Back the Ottawa Senators from
1987 to December 1990 when we finally did it) by three wise hockey minds (Sam
Pollock, Glen Sather and Bill Torrey who built Montreal, Edmonton and New York
Islanders dynasties, respectively, in the 1970s and 1980s) to focus on the
draft. You cannot build a great hockey program if you don’t draft well, develop
talent patiently and trade infrequently and judiciously. Mr. Pollock said,
“Only one man can have the puck on his stick at any one time so if a
multi-player trade goes down, look for the team that got the single best
player. They just won that deal.”

Ferguson was the guy who with his huge hockey hands (decorated with beaucoup
Stanley Cup rings) pounded on the table at the Sens first draft in Montreal in
1992 and insisted that the team should take Alexei Yashin whether the Sens won
the coin toss with Tampa Bay Lightning or not. Some scouts wanted Roman Hamrlik
but John wanted Yash. The Sens lost the toss; Tampa took Hamrlik number one overall, the
Sens got Yashin with the second pick who was later traded to the Islanders for
Zdeno Chara and a draft pick which turned into Jason Spezza, two pretty good

the value of an NHL franchise, half, consists of player contracts. Most of the
balance is derived from season tickets—the fan base of the team. Only a tiny
bit is made up of hard assets, things like equipment, office furniture, arenas.
Huh, what’s that you say? Arenas? Yes, an arena without a prime tenant probably
has a negative value just ask (now defunct) Ogden Corp who built the Honda
Center in Anaheim without a lead tenant until Disney bailed them out when they
were awarded the franchise for the Mighty Ducks in 1993 and signed a longterm
lease there.

Wirtz, owner of the Chicago Blackhawks (now deceased), told us in 1991 that the
key to building a solid franchise was to sell season tickets. Players prefer to
play in front of a full house, they play harder and it’s more exciting for fans
too. And corporate sponsors (people who pay BIG money for things like arena
naming rights) like to be associated with an exciting team playing in front of
rabid fans. Sure, they are investing their money to capture eyeballs in endless
marketing wars but don’t fool yourself, they like sitting in “their” building
with 20,000 other deranged human beings.

how do you drive fans crazy? You win. You tell a story. You create a mythology
of heroes and villains. And no Ottawa
player has played a bigger part in developing that type of story arc than No.

favorite memory of Alfie is probably not what you might think it is. It was at
the NHL Awards dinner in 1996 when Alfredsson won the Calder Memorial Trophy as
Rookie of the Year. He got onstage and said two incredibly important things to
the NHL family gathered there that night—a) Ottawa was going to be a good team
and b) he would not be the last Sens player up there getting a major award.
There were snickers in the audience that night from skeptical attendees. It took
guts to say that at a time when the team was really not very good but it soon
would be exactly as Alfie promised.

second best memory is when he scored against Buffalo to send the Sens to the
2007 Stanley Cup Finals, their first appearance in the finals since 1927. Now
that’s a long time to wait.

I asked Sens President Cyril Leeder this week about Alfie, this is what he had
to say, “You know, Bruce, back in 1992, if we had written down the parameters
we wanted in a perfect Senator or Captain, the description and expectations
would not have been as good as what Daniel turned out to be. He was everything
we could have asked for and more. So he has created, left behind, and now set
this standard for being a model captain, Senator, teammate and member of this

was in Gothenburg when the Sens opened their season over there in October 2008.
The team played an exhibition game versus Alfie’s old team, the Frolunda
Indians. He describes the scene this way, “I don’t know if I can put into words
what that experience was like. The best I can do is that it was as if Gretzky
had played a game in Brantford during the prime of his career. The outpouring
of affection for Daniel was amazing and I remember thinking that every player
should get that opportunity once in his lifetime to play in his hometown like

was in an Ottawa uniform when the Senators were, frankly, terrible; he was
there when the Sens first made the playoffs (in year 5 as promised); he was
there when the team challenged for a Stanley Cup; he was there when they missed
a payroll and when it went bankrupt. He was there when there was talk about the
Sens having to leave Ottawa because they couldn’t make it here. He calmed fans’
fears and his teammates’ nervousness. He helped keep this team for Ottawa. He
shouldered the responsibility of being a captain of a small market Canadian
team with all its ups and downs. Now that is pressure. He was, through all of
that, Ottawa’s best, most consistent player. He was the glue guy. He was Mr.
Ottawa Senator.

economists, when they look at a franchise’s value to its community, figure it’s
pretty minimal. If people don’t spend their money on tickets and parking plus a
few brewskis at Canadian Tire Centre, they’ll spend it somewhere else, right?

right—in Toronto, in Montreal and in New York watching world class
entertainment there. Ottawa-Gatineau sees itself as a tier 1 town and isn’t
going to be satisfied with 3rd tier acts.

VC from Boston once told me they only invest in tier 1 cities and you know how
they figure out which ones those are? They don’t; they let major leagues like
the NHL, NBA, MLB and NFL do that for them. So he said a big reason Ottawa is
on the map is that we have a major league franchise here.

realize my bias as the team’s founder is in plain view. I get that. But even if
you are not a hockey fan or a sports fan, these teams have profound and subtle
influences on their communities. When your home team performs well, people are
in a better mood and optimistic people do more stuff—like start a new
enterprise, hire an extra worker, renovate their places, invest in new
machinery, go out more and socialize more.

would guess that for most of us, our best days are when we feel we are part of
something special—something bigger than ourselves. I believe Daniel Alfredsson
made a lot of Ottawans feel that way. That’s really why his loss is so

if half the value of the Sens franchise is in its player contracts then
probably a third of that was in his contract, possibly half. It’s a big loss.

here’s the thing—he probably wanted to play another year or two without the
pressure of carrying the expectations of 1.3 million people living in a G8
capital on his back. So adios Ottawa, hello Detroit where a younger Henrik
Zetterberg gets to do all that.

Detroit plays the Sens in the Stanley Cup playoffs in the spring of 2014, I’ll
be cheering for the Sens. But if the Red Wings are there against any other
squad, why I’ll be cheering for Alfie just like I did for (former Senator)
Marian Hossa and the Hawks, twice.

Bruce M Firestone, Founder, Ottawa Senators; Author, Quantum Entity Trilogy,
Entrepreneurs Handbook II; Executive Director, Exploriem.org; Broker, Century
21 Explorer Realty. Reach him on Twitter @ProfBruce and visit him online at


Bruce M Firestone, B Eng (Civil), M Eng-Sci, Phd. Founder, Ottawa Senators;
Author, Quantum Entity Trilogy, Entrepreneurs Handbook II; Executive Director,
Exploriem.org; Broker, Century 21 Explorer Realty Inc. 613.566.3436 X 200 or
613.422.6757. bmfirestone @ dramatispersonae.org or bruce.firestone @

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