Ottawa Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson (65) reacts with right wing Daniel Alfredsson (11) against the Philadelphia Flyers, March 31, 2012 in Philadelphia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Alex Brandon
OTTAWA - The first go-around left something to be desired.
But Ottawa Senators fans are a plucky bunch and in a matter of weeks they've turned a message board-inspired idea into one of the most unique tributes in all of sports.
Concerned that captain Daniel Alfredsson may be playing out his final NHL season, a group of fans came up with a chant earlier this month to honour the team's long-time captain at every home game. When the game clock reaches 11:11 each period—Alfredsson wears No. 11—the fans count down before repeatedly chanting "Alfie! Alfie! Alfie!" once it hits 11:00.
Word of the elaborate chant was spread by a number of the team's fan bloggers via a Facebook group, Twitter and other social media. It debuted during an April 3 game against Carolina at Scotiabank Place.
"Plenty of confused looks the first time around but it picked up steam with each period and with each game," said Dave, who operates a fan blog (www.senschirp.ca) and declined to provide his full name.
It's quickly turned into a full-blown roar that has caught more than one broadcaster off-guard and should reach a new level with Alfredsson expected to make his home debut in the Senators-New York Rangers first-round series on Monday night.
Inadvertently, the chant took on even more meaning when Alfredsson sat out Games 3 and 4 of the series with a concussion. He watched on television and marvelled at being able to clearly make out what the fans were yelling.
"It's obviously pretty neat," Alfredsson said Sunday. "I heard it started on Facebook or something like that, I don't really know the full history behind it. It felt pretty good, especially when I was sitting at home."
There aren't many athletes in any sport with as strong a connection to their team's fanbase.
Alfredsson was a sixth-round draft in 1994 by Ottawa and has called the city home since his rookie season of 1995-96, when he captured the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. The 39-year-old holds the majority of the franchise's offensive records and has participated in every playoff series it's ever been a part of.
Earlier this month, Alfredsson mused that it could be his final time playing in the post-season. He's expected to make a decision about his future in the summer.
There was never much doubt about how Senators fans felt about Alfredsson—they made him the focal point of the NHL's all-star weekend here in January—but in loudly chanting for him each period they're providing a consistent reminder of how important he is to the franchise.
"It's pretty cool to see what's possible when fans come together to support a grassroots initiative like this one," said Dave, known online as SensChirp. "Social media definitely helps but this is all about the passion of the Sens fanbase and shows just how much this city loves their captain.
"And considering the popularity of the chant the past few games, I think this is a Scotiabank Place tradition that will live on for seasons to come."