Daniel Alfredsson – and the city of Ottawa – finally get their Hall of Fame recognition

Excuse Daniel Alfredsson for thinking another year would go by without him getting a congratulatory call from the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The former senatorial captain had become accustomed to the selection committee’s radio silence after being passed four times in a row for anchoring.

“I actually thought I wasn’t going to get the call,” Alfredsson told reporters on a conference call from his home in Sweden. “It was here after 8pm local time, but I thought it wouldn’t happen again this year.”

Instead, Alfredsson was pleasantly surprised when his wife Bibbi answered a phone call on his behalf on Tuesday night — only to find out it was Lanny McDonald and Mike Gartner on the other end.

In a moment captured on video by the Hall of Fame, the conversation started with a lighthearted moment.

“If it wasn’t the Hall of Fame, wouldn’t you take the call?” asked McDonald.

“I thought it was my insurance company calling,” Alfredsson joked.

But moments later, things got serious when Gartner gave Alfredsson formal news that he would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022.

On hearing the news, Alfredsson’s first words were, ‘I can’t tell you how much this means. Not just for me, but for the city of Ottawa.”

That Ottawa was top priority for Alfredsson – even though he was an ocean away in Sweden – speaks volumes about his deep relationship with this city and fanbase. Few athletes have the connection Alfredsson has with the city of Ottawa, whose roots go much deeper than hockey.

“When you retire, it feels even more special to have the connection I’ve had with the city and the fans,” Alfredsson added on Tuesday. “Even after my playing days, that means a lot to me. I think a lot of fans of the Senators today are also happy that I get this recognition. And they are a big part of it.

But it can often feel like the greatness of Ottawa players is limited to the 613 area code, with senatorial fans constantly having to justify their attributes to fans and critics in outside markets. In many ways, Alfredsson was the perfect embodiment of Ottawa when he was the captain of the Senators. He was quiet, humble, hardworking – and criminally undervalued by outsiders.

And so when Alfredsson was consistently neglected for the Hall of Fame, Senatorial fans took it as yet another example of how the franchise is often seen as a “little brother” to other Canadian franchises. While many of Alfredsson’s career feats did fairly well against Mats Sundin and the Sedin twins, those players were considered the Hall of Famers of the first ballot, while the Senators’ captain had to be patient until his time came.

(Alfredsson, by the way, provided a lengthy introductory video for Sundin’s 2012 Hall of Fame initiation ceremony. It would be a very nice gesture to see Sundin return the favor for Alfredsson’s November ceremony.)

Alfredsson had passed every ballot since 2017, with the Hockey Hall of Fame’s shadowy selection process throwing little light on their reasoning. But as news of Alfredsson’s introduction spread on Tuesday, the city of Ottawa exploded into cheers, melting away all the cynicism associated with his Hall of Fame bid. It may have taken five years, but it finally felt like the Hall of Fame selection committee could see Alfredsson through an Ottawa lens—understanding his massive impact on this city.

The news even reached France, where the former president of the senatorial team Cyril Leeder is currently on holiday. In a social media post, Leeder revealed he was 6,000 feet in the air in a hot air balloon when he learned that Alfredsson was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He quickly asked if the balloon could land so he could open a bottle of champagne and celebrate the moment on the ground.

“When I heard the news, I got a tear in my eye. I was so happy for Daniel and his family,” Leeder said the athletic via text on Tuesday evening “He did so much for the team on the ice and so much for the community off the ice. And he did it the right way – with hard work and humility. He never sought the limelight or accolades, he just did the right thing every time. He is very stylish and very deserving of the Hall of Fame selection.”

“To be recognized in this way is really humbling,” Alfredsson added on Tuesday. “It is a great honor and a special day. You don’t think about that when you play the game. That is not your goal during your career. But when you’re retired and you look back on it, it really means a lot to be in this great sport with the other great players.”

Leeder has been one of the silent catalysts behind a grassroots movement that has helped generate momentum for Alfredsson’s Hall of Fame candidacy in recent weeks. “Alfie To The Hall” was a slick and aggressive social media campaign that actively promoted the reputation of Alfredsson’s Hall of Fame in recent weeks.

The hashtag #AlfietotheHall has exploded on Twitter in recent days, with the official social media channels of the Ottawa Senators helping to amplify the message. The senators’ embrace of Alfredsson’s Hall of Fame candidacy was a marked departure from their previous stance on the issue, in which they completely ignored their former captain’s offer.

Craig Medaglia – who once managed the Senators’ social media accounts – was also part of the “Alfie To The Hall” group. And Medaglia believes the senators’ silence on the subject over the past four years was a factor that caused Alfredsson to be overlooked.

“In the past, that almost immediately eliminated him from the fray. If he doesn’t have the support of the organization where he played 95 percent of his career, he probably shouldn’t go in,” said Medaglia. that if the team is not on board there is no point in putting him in.”

The group “Alfie To The Hall” says their tweets had more than 2.5 million impressions in the past two weeks, with their hashtag reaching a whopping 20 million users. The group is quick to point out that Alfredsson didn’t make it into the Hall of Fame as a direct result of their aggressive social media campaign, but they believe they helped streamline things into a single, coherent message.

“The role we played was probably different from what people think. The part we played was not so much to prove that he was Hall of Fame worthy,” explains Medaglia. “It was more about organizing everyone under one banner. People needed to know where to direct their energies. Let’s get everyone organized.”

Still, the group may have played a key role a few months ago when they formally submitted a bid for Alfredsson’s candidacy directly to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Using a little-known clause that allows members of the public to make a passionate pitch for their favorite hockey players to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Ottawa fans Stephen MacDonald and Corey Meehan did just that on behalf of Alfredsson.

“What do Ottawans like more than looking in a rulebook to see what is allowed and what is not? If there’s one city built to sort out the bureaucracy of things, it’s Ottawa,” MacDonald said.

And so they put together a detailed package and submitted it to the Hockey Hall of Fame, making sure to meet their March 15 deadline. They received confirmation that Hall officials had received their electronic package – with Meehan also personally delivering 20 hard copies to the Hall of Fame in Toronto so that each member of the selection committee would have access to their own file. In the absence of a hard push from the hockey club, this group believed that a direct, grassroots approach was the best chance of convincing voters in Alfredsson’s favor.

The package praised the virtues of Alfredsson’s Hall of Fame credentials – how he finished 34th all-time in era-adjusted points, how he placed fifth in the NHL in scoring (1,157) during his 18-year stint in the league played. And they made sure to highlight how many recent entrants — like Sundin, Eric Lindros, Jarome Iginla, and Paul Kariya — hadn’t won a Stanley Cup over the course of their careers, either.

At his media conference on Tuesday, Alfredsson was asked directly about the campaign and how much it played a role in ultimately realizing his anchoring.

“I have no idea to be honest,” Alfredsson replied. “I’d like to think it was my playing career that made them pick me, but it feels really special to have the support of the group that made this offer.”

On multiple occasions on Tuesday, Alfredsson went out of his way to emphasize his relationship with the fans in Ottawa. Obviously any remaining bitterness or bitterness from his sudden departure to Detroit in the summer of 2013 has completely evaporated. And when his November introduction day rolls around, the memories that come back will soon be all positive.

His iconic goal to finally jump the Senators into the Stanley Cup in Buffalo.

The unlikely short-handed goal to tie a playoff game against Pittsburgh.

Or his attempt to raise awareness of mental health issues – long before it was a mainstream topic of conversation.

“It’s very special with the support I’ve had from Ottawa. Throughout my career, from 1995 to this day, they have been a huge supporter of mine and have tried to induct me into the Hall of Fame,” Alfredsson added. “They’re behind me all the way.”

(Photo of Alfredsson at the 2017 NHL100 Classic Ottawa Senators Alumni Game: Minas Panagiotakis / NHLI via Getty Images)

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