Alfie by Erik Karlsson | The players’ stand

Alfie by Erik Karlsson | The players’ stand

I remember his face when he got the call.

All business

Then a big smile.

A big smile from Alfie.

I was sitting in front of him at home in Sweden this summer. We both knew the call might come that day. We had waited for him together on the same day for the past two years. So to be there when it happened, to see firsthand how much it meant to him, to his family, to his children, was really special.

Daniel Alfredsson, Hockey Hall of Fame, Class of 2022.

I’m so happy for you, Alfie.

You deserve it for a million different reasons, many of which everyone knows about. They saw it with their own eyes. You were an amazing player. But I was lucky enough to see up close how incredible person you are. And if everyone doesn’t mind…I just want to talk about my friend for a few minutes.

There are many places I could start. But one of the best experiences of my time in Ottawa was the night Alfie retired as a senator. December 4, 2014. Full house. His beautiful family by his side. I remember standing near the bench with his guys, watching him as he stood under the spotlight at center ice. The arena was going crazy. It seemed like all of Ottawa was there with us. As if they were there he. He stood there for a few seconds and man, he could just feel the love, the appreciation. You don’t hear many tracks like that, really.

Erik Karlsson |  Sharks of Sant Josep |  Alfie |  The players' stand
Andre Ringuette / NHLI via Getty

In that moment, what I already knew was only reinforced: Ottawa loves Alfie like a son, and he loves her right back. He always has. There are a lot of guys who win cups, who win different awards and all that. But there aren’t many who can get a reaction like this from their city. And it’s because of who he is as a man, because of the connection he’s made with so many Senator fans. I knew that the second I became part of the organization.

In fact, probably a few seconds earlier.

The 2008 project was in Ottawa. He had no idea where he was going. Some teams were interested, but even my agent didn’t have a good idea. There was some rumblings when Ottawa traded up for the 15th pick. And then Alfie took to the stage to announce it. The place went wild. Alfie! Alfie! Alfie!

I don’t remember him saying it because he was too excited, but I know at some point he said, “The Ottawa Senators select, with their first pick, Erik Karlsson from Frolunda, Sweden.” Then I blacked out a bit. Fortunately, I’m sure it’s on YouTube somewhere. But I do remember how excited the building was to see him, and how nice he was to me. As a European player, the draft can be extremely overwhelming. I didn’t know anyone and it was just a whirlwind, but Alfie made me feel comfortable straight away.

That summer he invited me to his house in Sweden, and I got to meet his whole family. He treated me like one of his boys and they were all very nice to me. I was very happy to be a senator for many reasons. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the city and the team. But to be able to play alongside Alfie one day… that would have been a dream for any Swedish player my age.

All the boys I played with at home knew who I was, of course. He was a hero! See, when I was growing up, we didn’t really follow the NHL that much. I know we played video games on my SEGA. My friends and I picked on the Sens a lot because they were pretty good back then. But we followed hockey through our local teams and the Swedish national team.

Erik Karlsson |  Sharks of Sant Josep |  Alfie |  The players' stand
Andre Ringuette / NHLI via Getty

And any Swede will remember 2006 and the Turin Olympics.

I was 15 years old, totally obsessed with hockey. My team and I watched every game. And the gold medal game was one of those nights, one of those moments, really, that sticks with you. It meant a lot to us. so much Maybe more than I could really understand at this age. To beat Finland, too, extra sweet. Alfie was a huge part of that team, along with so many legends (congratulations Henrik and Daniel!) who inspired a whole generation of kids. We have a lot of great players these days, but people forget that we are a small country. What this team achieved… will be felt in Sweden for a long, long time.

A couple of years later, I was playing at Frolunda. Alfie had played there for a while before heading to Ottawa. He meant a lot to that club, and you couldn’t find someone who didn’t like to tell you their favorite goal or moment. He came around the facility during the off season and treated everyone like family. I will never forget that.

Going into my rookie season in Ottawa, knowing the type of guy Alfie was made all the difference for me. I really mean this. If I’m honest with you… I know I wouldn’t have become the player I am today without his help. He had a different style than many other defensemen in the NHL at the time and wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But Alfie knew me, he knew what I could do, what I could do wanted do. And I don’t know exactly how he did it, but having him in my corner…protected me, in a way. They allowed me to play my game. And I think that’s a big part of why I found success so quickly in Ottawa.

Off the iceā€¦ well, he became a great friend. He was the best man at my wedding in 2017. He and his family mean the world to my wife, Mel, and me.

I really feel very lucky to know him. And to have played next to him? Pretty cool, if you ask me. I will treasure our time on the national team together in Sochi in 2014. It was a dream come true. His 1,000th match, very happy to have been there. Watching him score his 400th goal, what a moment. what can i say I’m a huge fan.

When I got the C in Ottawa, I knew what it meant because of everything I had learned from him. His connection to the city became mine, and we both still call the city home. I will always love Ottawa, and that is partly thanks to Alfie.

The day he retired as a senator in 2014, the whole night was supposed to be about him. And rightly so. But I remember getting to the court and all his guys were wearing suits My shirt. Not his father’s, mine. I had just become captain a few months before, and I knew Alfie meant it as a gesture to everyone. As if to say, My time is up, let’s go after Erik and the team. Until his last day as a senator, he still supported me. That’s who he is.

To my children he is ‘Uncle Alfie’ and when they are old enough to know him better, they will realize what a wonderful man he is. A great father, a great husband, a great be human He treated everyone with respect. He knew right from wrong. He cared passionately about the game of hockey and the city of Ottawa. He still does.

It feels incredible to say that my best friend is going into the Hall of Fame.

Congratulations, mate.

– Erik

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