COUNTDOWN TO THE RETURN OF ALFIE (Dec. 1): 11 essays on #11 (essay #10 — Daniel Alfredsson as celebrity dad)

In April 2013, Ottawa Magazine honoured the captain with the “Alfie Pack,” deconstructing the Senators’ icon with 11 essays on No. 11. By July, he was a Detroit Red Wing.

On December 1, Alfie and the Red Wings visit The Canadian Tire Centre for the first time since the deal was done. In the lead-up to the big event, Ottawa Magazine revisits our 11 essays — one essay per day for 11 days. (Want a copy? Back issues for sale here.)

Turning It up to 11: Alfie as Celebrity Dad

This photo dates back to 2006 when Daniel Alfredsson was interviewed by Michael Prentice for Ottawa Magazine. Photograph by Bill Grimshaw
This photo, with second son Loui, dates back to 2006 when Daniel Alfredsson was interviewed by Michael Prentice for Ottawa Magazine. Photograph by Bill Grimshaw

By Roger Collier

My daughter’s class mates don’t gawk at me when I visit their classroom. They don’t call me by a cool nickname. They don’t say things like “Sweet job on that magazine article about new harm-reduction policies for drug addiction.” They don’t ask for my autograph. Oh, well, we can’t all be Daniel Alfredsson.

When my daughter, Ella, entered junior kindergarten six years ago, it was an exciting time for my wife and me. Ella is our first child. Watching her climb the stairs of the big yellow school bus with her Dora the Explorer backpack for the first time is something I’ll never forget. Naturally, Ella was excited too.

Over dinner, she would tell us about her teacher and her new friends. There was a Kyra and an Alisha. There was a Ben and an Owen. And there was a kid with a name I thought was pretty interesting: Hugo. His last name was no less interesting: Alfredsson. Could it be? Nah.

Surely a son of Ottawa’s most famous and beloved professional athlete wouldn’t attend a public school in Kanata. He would be enrolled in a fancy private school with tuition more expensive than my mortgage.

Later in the year, my daughter’s class held a concert. All the parents sat on tiny plastic chairs to listen to our little ones sing “A, You’re Adorable,” among other adorable ditties. And sure enough, sitting right there with us, next to his lovely wife Bibi, was No. 11 — Daniel Alfredsson, captain of the Ottawa Senators, 1996 NHL rookie of the year, six-time All-Star, et cetera, et cetera.

After the concert, everyone hung around for a while, snacking on fruit and cheese and introducing themselves. “I’m so-and-so’s dad.” “I work in high tech.” “Nice to meet you.” That kind of thing. Except it wasn’t that kind of thing at all for Alfie. No introductions were necessary for him. Everybody in the room already knew who he was, and I couldn’t help thinking how weird that must be.

Some of the other dads approached him and struck up conversations. I wondered what they were saying. “Hey, Alfie, good game last night.” “Hey, Alfie, how are your hamstrings holding up?” “Hey, Alfie, how about them Leafs, who, if you ask me, sure do suck, in my humble opinion.” It must have been fairly strange for Hugo as well. I mean, half the boys on the school’s playground wore jerseys with his last name across the shoulders. Add that to the list of things I can’t relate to. Then again, perhaps my daughter neglected to inform me about all the kids with Collier on the back of their Ottawa Freelancers jerseys.

In the summer, at Walter Baker Park, I again ran into Alfredsson in full-on dad mode. He was watching one of his boys monkey around on a play structure that, somewhere in its depths, also held my son, Jack. It would be silly, of course, for me to judge Alfie, who now has four sons, as a good or bad dad based on the few glimpses I’ve had of him with his kids. But I’m going to do it anyway.

I think you can tell at a glance, sometimes, whether a man truly enjoys being a father. You can see it in his face. If a father delights in his child, it shows in his eyes. It’s obvious that some dads at playgrounds would rather be anywhere else. Alfredsson didn’t seem like that kind of dad. He appeared to take great pleasure in watching his son play. Based on this overwhelming body of evidence, I hereby declare that Daniel Alfredsson is a great dad.

The last time I saw Alfredsson up close was a few years ago in a media scrum in the Senators’ locker room. I asked him a few questions for a story I was working on for the Ottawa Citizen. And then, for a reason that now escapes me, I said, “Hey, your son Hugo was in the same junior kindergarten class as my daughter. He came to her birthday party at the Children’s Museum.”

Wow, that was dumb. What, was I expecting him to remember me? Hey, Alfie, we once ate grapes and cheddar in the same room for several minutes. Let’s be buds! Yeesh. Still, he was nice enough about it. He smiled and nodded before moving on to answer another reporter’s question about something actually related to hockey. When I left the building, I passed Alfie in the parking lot. He waved and see-ya-latered me as he got into his car.

Great hockey player, good dad, and a nice guy to boot. Ottawa is lucky to have you, Daniel Alfredsson.