The Ottawa Senators have a date with a familiar face tonight and no one quite knows what to expect.
In their first visit to the now-Eastern Conference Detroit Red Wings, the Senators are preparing for more than just a tilt against a good and storied team. It will also be their first chance to line up against the man who led them for over a decade.
Daniel Alfredsson’s shocking departure in the off-season raised a battle of words and a flood of emotions—good and bad—among fans everywhere. Now three months removed from that July afternoon confirming the beloved captain’s exit, the media has once again brought a hailstorm of buzz.
From exclusive articles in the Ottawa Citizen to TSN’s Brent Wallace sitting down with the former face of the franchise, the last few days leading up to this game has been full of anticipation.
How will Alfie feel trying to score against his former team?
How will the players feel going into the corners with the man who was their former leader?
How will the fans react cheering against Alfie for the first time?
If anything, this game will knock a certain sense of reality into players and fans alike.
Because of the high turnaround and the scheduling of the NHL these days, “goodbye” doesn’t really last very long. It’s only a matter of time before dates are circled and games against former players and teammates are played.
Results aside, it has been pretty easy for the Senators to move forward and function business as usual since the season started. Jason Spezza has stepped in fairly seamlessly as captain and has already begun to make his mark as the new leader.
But it’s this raw emotion fuelled by the media and lingering hurt or resentment from fans that becomes the X factor. Even those who are indifferent about playing against Alfie likely have a thing or two to say about it.
The beauty about hype leading up to a game is that it can go either way. Whether or not the Senators show up against a good team that is now a divisional rival is all up in the air and might possibly be the only storyline to come out of this date.
On the flip side, Alfie might score a hat trick in a blow-out win for the Red Wings to validate his decision to go to Detroit even further. Bobby Ryan could score one of his infamous highlight reel goals to out-deke even Pavel Datsyuk to secure an Ottawa Senators win. Heck, Erik Karlsson could go into the boards funny with an opposing Red Wing to knock him out another season and the conspiracy theories will rise again. (Knock on wood. Hard. Multiple times.)
The point is, the players will be trying to keep their emotions at bay at best as possible, which is an approach most fans should take as well. Pride and bragging rights are on the line, yes, but so are two very valuable points to begin a tough four-game stretch for the Senators.
Ottawa Senators Host Alfredsson -
Of course, all of this will be revisited again when Alfie returns to Ottawa in December. There is still a lot of uncertainty about how Senators fans will receive No. 11 as a visiting player, another X factor scenario that could get real ugly real fast. Hopefully the two games played in Detroit before then will dull any hostility at least to a point that won’t be embarrassing for the home crowd.
There will always be some sad and conflicting feelings about Daniel Alfredsson floating around — that’s just in the territory when it comes to former captains that were loved as much and as long as he was. This first game against him is just another step forward in the process of getting used to him in a different shade of red.