Saturday, 16 March 2013

Geek Tragedy, or, The Swede Hereafter

Oswald: What dost thou know me for?

Kent: A knave; a rascal . . . a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-liver'd, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, superserviceable, financial rogue; one-trunk inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch; one whom I will beat into a clamorous whining, if thou deny the least syllable of they addition.

(King Lear 2.2.12-21) 

Full disclosure: I’m a Leafs fan, but I’m not writing this to knock the Sens.

Fuller disclosure: I lived in Ottawa for years and attended a number of Sens games.

Fullest disclosure: The only decent type of beer at Scotiabank Place is Rickard’s Red, and it’s hard to find.

From TSN to SportsNet and in numerous hockey blogs, there is overwhelming support for the trade of Alfredsson to a cup contender. I haven’t heard any Sens fans calling for a trade, but I can only imagine that they virulently (and rightly) oppose such a disastrous decision.

Alfredsson simply means too much to the franchise and the community to be traded. Sure, another player could step up and be the face of the franchise (although I haven’t heard anyone cheer “Spezza,” “Michalek,” or “Phillips” when the game clock ticks down to their corresponding numbers.) But it would be best for Alfie to retire as a Senator rather than request a trade or be shipped out for pragmatic purposes.

Why? Because the passion of Ottawa fans that makes them (excessively, I might snark) adore Alfredsson will make them hate him even more if he plays for another team. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s some anecdotal evidence in support of my claim. I used to see a decent number of Sens games when I lived in Ottawa, but I can only recall one time in which the organization used a commercial break to honour their top scorers on the big screen. The response was highly surprising.

10. Chris Phillips, cheered. 9. Shawn McEachern, reticent applause. 8. Mike Fisher, loudly booed. 7. Dany Heatley, savagely booed. 6. Marian Hossa, slightly-less savagely booed. 5. Radek Bonk, mildly applauded. 4. Wade Redden, mockingly cheered. 3. Alexei Yashin, hatefully booed and jeered. 2. Jason Spezza, enthusiastically cheered. 1. Daneil Alfredsson, NSFW levels of adoring cheers—possibly the same frenzied jubilation that Orpheus heard before he was torn apart by groupies.

"Alfie! Alfie! Alfie! Alfie! Alfie!"

Ottawa fans apparently hate players who did well for them and then left the organization. Mats Sundin created a lot of controversy during his last days as a Leaf, but he still received a standing ovation when he returned to the ACC as a Canuck. Upon returning to Scotiabank Place as a Penguin or Bruin (or whatever else the rumour mill would have him), Alfredsson would probably be torn apart just like Pentheus when he put a damper on a rowdy Bacchanalia.  

Apparently it's not a REAL toga party unless someone loses limbs.

Trading Alfie could mortally wound the spirit of Sens fans and the franchise itself. Without Alfie, I’m not sure many fans would endure the long bus ride to and from Kanata to watch the team. Alfredsson’s performance in Ottawa’s rink and in the community in general has endeared him to people so much that Ottawans probably believe that he could turn the water in the Rideau Canal into Lingonberry wine. If the organization trades him, he won’t even be able to show his face in any of the 3,000 Royal Oaks in the city (maybe not even the one in Kanata). It would be better to let the cornerstone player retire as a Senator and continue working in the organization at some level (I’d suggest having him replace Denis Potvin as the colour commentator for Sportsnet Sens) rather than pursue a trade that would damage Alfie’s enviable reputation and perhaps undermine the very foundation of Ottawa’s franchise. 

For another perspective on this topic, check out Michael Langois’ excellent post.  

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