How Chris Kelly’s Skates Saved Daniel Alfredsson’s Career


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Chris Kelly will steal a memento of his stolen skates when Daniel Alfredsson’s number 11 jersey hits the rafters on December 29.

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In November 2006, Alfredsson was mired in the worst crisis of his career, seriously considering retirement, desperate for answers, when he spotted Kelly’s skates hanging in his locker room. In an interview with Postmedia years later, Alfredsson said, “These skates saved my career.”

Back then, the Senators captain recalls, he was giving himself one more game to get his game back on track. If he didn’t turn around, he was ready to walk into general manager John Muckler’s office and announce his retirement. Kelly’s skates fit her like a glove. Alfie found his groove, scoring in the next four games. He eventually ended the season with 29 goals and 58 assists. In the playoffs, he led the Senators to the Stanley Cup Finals, scoring the overtime winner to clinch the Eastern Conference title.

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Alfredsson has always been ridiculously picky about his skates, often going through 30 pairs in a season. As the season progressed, Kelly would order new skates over and over again, wearing them for two weeks to break in, before handing them over to the captain. Kelly says it was a win-win. The captain was happy and he himself always wore new skates. “It allowed me to stay a few more years,” Kelly said, reminding the other of her fondest memories of Alfredsson. “They couldn’t get rid of me. Alfie has always needed these skates.

In 2011, when then-Senators general manager Bryan Murray traded Kelly to Boston as part of a rebuilding effort, Kelly joked that the Ottawa captain was most upset with the drying up of its supply of skates.

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“I heard he was devastated when Bryan traded me,” Kelly said. “Bryan tried to work into the deal that I would send skates back to him every two weeks.” For those counting, Alfredsson went on to play 530 regular season games after wearing Kelly’s Blades for the first time, scoring 181 goals and 299 assists. Kelly, who returned to the Senators as an unrestricted free agent in 2008, says a few games during Alfredsson’s career stood out.

Like most longtime Senators fans, he says the winner of Alfredsson’s overtime game against Buffalo in 2007 — sending the Senators to the Stanley Cup Final — tops the list. The same goes for the game that took Alfredsson to the four-figure mark in career points.

“I was able to help on the 1,000th point selfishly, I was pretty excited about it,” he said.

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“These are two memories that feel like yesterday.” Chris Neil, who played over 1,000 games, also has hundreds of memories and thousands of words to speak of the longtime captain’s impact. “You always look at other teams’ rosters and say, ‘this guy is a game changer,'” Neil said. other team puts a lot of pressure, he could slow down the game and slide the puck or whatever he does.”

Neil says he learned countless lessons, watching how Alfredsson behaved in training, during matches and in his dealings with the community.

On the ice, he says his lasting impression of Alfredsson as a player was his relentless quest to add something to his game.

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“He was always trying to improve,” Neil said. “Whether it was equipment, skating, stickhandling, etc., he was always trying to find that edge to improve and be at the top of his game.” Neil says part of his composition is what ultimately helped Alfredsson become an elite player. “Whatever Alfie decides to do, he will do it, no matter the sports game. He pays attention to details, to what (other) people are doing, looks so closely at what other people are doing.

And if the skate fits you, wear it.

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