Daniel Alfredsson signs 1-day deal, happy to retire as Senator

The contract was signed. The jersey, stitched with the iconic ‘C’ on his chest, was thrown on. Flanked by the team’s owner and general manager, Daniel Alfredsson was an Ottawa Senator again, if just for one day.

Or, more precisely one warm-up, as Alfredsson will dress with the team and skate before their game vs. the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

After that, the 18-season career for one of the NHL’s elite wingers will be over, his sore back preventing him from mounting another return to the League.

“Some of you may remember, four years ago, when my body started telling me that hockey has a cost,” he said, “and last season my body began to complain once more.”

Last season was spent with the Detroit Red Wings, after a bitter split with the Senators over a new contract in 2013. Henrik Zetterberg of the Wings recruited the free agent, and the contentious negotiations with Ottawa and the chance to challenge for a Stanley Cup were too much for Alfredsson to pass up.

“It was a very, very hard decision to make. Changing teams, uprooting family,” he recalled.

A reconciliation between the captain and his former team was always inevitable, but few expected it to come so quickly.

“Daniel wanted to experience something different. We didn’t want him to leave, but after he left. I talked to Daniel all along,” said GM Bryan Murray. “I have great respect for Daniel. I know he had great respect for the Senators.”

So as the signs pointed to him ending his NHL career, Murray told owner Eugene Melnyk that he believed Alfredsson would be open to retiring as a Senator. With the owner’s blessing, he took the idea to Alfredsson. The two took a long car ride, reminisced and Alfredsson agreed this is how things should end. The Red Wings gave him their blessing, as they had hoped he’d be well enough to play for them again.

Would Alfredsson have played for Ottawa this season instead, had he been healthy enough?

“I committed to play in Detroit if I would have played,” he said.

But he’s not a Red Wing, although he said some glowing things about the franchise during his press conference on Thursday.

He’s a Senator. And he was touched by the outpouring from the community, which was one he supported through tireless charity work on behalf of children, the mentally ill and others in need.

“It’s overwhelming, but it’s also very touching. You do things on the ice. You’re supposed to be good at it,” he said. “But my parents always talked about how it’s important to be a good person. Treat everybody as you’d like to be treated.”

Murray said Alfredsson set an example to follow, on and off the ice.

“I remember after practice, I’d say to him ‘why the hell don’t you get off the ice?’” he said.

Alfredsson would reply that he was having fun, playing around with teammates.

“I think the message was stronger than that,” recalled Murray. “It was ‘maybe if you stay longer and practice your skills will be better.’”

He was a leader on the ice. He was an inspiration off the ice. And on Thursday, Daniel Alfredsson will received the celebration he deserves, in the only place it should occur.

"Without question, Daniel has been the greatest player that this city has ever seen," said Melnyk.