OTTAWA -- The loudest ovation of the night came straight from the heart.
The crowd at Scotiabank Place was its feet when beloved captain Daniel Alfredsson was introduced before the skills event Saturday night, a precious moment that was a reminder of the bond Canada’s capital has with the Swedish winger.
"It’s special,’’ Alfredsson said afterward. "You never get used to it and you never know quite how to handle it. I told Erik (Karlsson) in the tunnel before he went out before me, `Take it all in.’ And he said, `You too.’ I really tried to.’’
Active in local charities, Alfredsson is easily the most popular player in franchise history and he’s also been told he’s got a job in the front office if he chooses to stick around after he retires. The ovation Saturday night underlined that popularity.
"It’s so special to be treated like that,’’ said Alfredsson. "They’ve been with me throughout my career and seen my ups and my downs, trying to play injured, and respect what I do. And I’ve been same with them, I respect the people in this city, I try to do as much as I can in the community. It’s just grown over the years. It’s been incredible.’’
Could an MVP performance be in the cards Sunday night? Now that would be a Hollywood ending.
Kane slides way to the top
Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane grew up a fan of the NBA slam dunk contest and was watching when Dwight Howard put on Superman’s cape during the 2008 contest. He gave the idea his own twist during Saturday's Breakaway Challenge.
When it was his turn to shoot, teammate Marian Hossa skated out, gave Kane a cape and Clark Kent glasses. Kane then skated in, dove onto his stomach, gloved the puck across the ice to his stick before sliding it past a wildly sprawling Brian Elliott.
“I thought it’d be cool to wear it and slide down the ice like I was flying or something,” said Kane, who won the event.
He sent his parents and Blackhawks PR director Brandon Faber on a mission to find the cape at a local costume shop and they made other suggestions to improve the outfit.
“They had some other ideas, like sparklers on my skates,” Kane said. “I wasn’t going to try and burn myself on the ice out there.”
Kane hopes to follow it up on Sunday with an MVP performance in the All-Star Game. He got some pointers on how to take home MVP honors from last year’s winner, Blackhawks teammate Patrick Sharp. The key? Be good early.
“He gave me some advice this weekend. He said, ‘Make sure you start fast,’” Kane said. “He had a couple assists in the first period and then he scored a goal early in the second and I guess the fans voted in.”
Kane won over the fans on Saturday night, earning 47 percent of the fan vote in the Breakaway Challenge, beating Corey Perry, who finished second with 29 percent.
Torts happy about Girardi props
The skills competition wasn’t exactly the best showcase for the skills of Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, who was a passer in the accuracy shooting contest. Until there’s a competition for blocking shots or throwing a check, he’s out of luck.
It might not be much better during Sunday’s All-Star Game.
“Maybe [I’ll] finish a few checks out there, block a few shots, I don’t know,” Girardi said. “Try to keep it under minus-2, minus-3. Make a few plays, maybe get a shot on net or two. I’m just happy to be here.”
His coach is happy he’s here as well. Girardi’s game isn’t the kind that typically draws the spotlight but John Tortorella said the Rangers defenseman is a big reason he’s behind the bench for the All-Star Game.
He said the recognition is long overdue for Girardi.
“I think sometimes our league forgets about people like that,” Tortorella said. “That restores a little faith in me that the league stepped up.”