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There are undoubtedly a lot of fan bases for a lot of pro franchises in a lot of cities that wish they had an owner like Mike Ilitch.
When it comes to hockey — especially hockey — and baseball in Detroit, there is little that resembles rebuilding. There is just reloading.
The Red Wings did it again Friday in the opening minutes, heck seconds, of the NHL free agency scrum.
The team that extended the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks to overtime in Game 7 of their conference semifinal playoff series needed to bump its scoring punch, so Wings general manager Ken Holland dug into Ilitch’s deep pockets and jumped on one of the league’s all-time leading scorers among active players and one of its premier playmakers.
The signing of Daniel Alfredsson to a one-year deal was surprising if not stunning. He is leaving Ottawa, the only team for which he has played, after 18 seasons. Imagine Al Kaline leaving the Tigers late in his hall-of-fame career.
Getting forward-center Stephen Weiss of Florida, a guy who makes good things happen around him, in a five-year deal is an investment that should have a far longer return.
But Alfredsson is the marquee name. He announced recently that he would forgo retirement for one more season and nearly everyone presumed it would be with the Senators, for whom the forward was the longest-tenured captain in the league.
At age 40, though, he decided to be admittedly selfish.
The Red Wings, who move next season to the Eastern Conference, may be a scorer away from the full playoff run. Alfredsson has long been among the game’s best. If one and one equal two, he may be able to do something he has never done during all those years in Ottawa, skate with that big cup hoisted above his head.
He said he feels the Senators are “getting closer and closer and that they’re going in the right direction and have a really bright future in front of them. [But] I don’t have the time to wait for that.
“It was a tough decision to make, and it still hasn’t really sunk in. I feel I’m doing this for myself. I feel this was right for me. I really like the fit with the Detroit Red Wings.”
And it was a $5.5 million fit for the Wings, who figure the Swede still has plenty left in his tank. He won the Mark Messier Leadership Award this past season, a shortened season, after scoring 10 goals and 16 assists in 47 games. He was an all-star for the sixth time in a career that has produced 426 goals and 1,108 points.
Alfredsson decided to worry less about his legacy and more about the promised land. He realizes he is suddenly unpopular, maybe even borderline reviled, in Ottawa, which offered him both one and two-year deals, and said if he was a fan he’d probably feel the same way.
“But I know what I’ve done in Ottawa,” he countered. “I gave it everything I had throughout my career. This is purely a situation where this is about me. This is a decision I make for myself, not for anybody else. It’s all about trying to get the Stanley Cup.”
And it’s all about the same thing for the Red Wings. It always is.
With Mr. Ilitch footing the bill, it’s never about rebuilding. It’s about winning.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.
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