In April 2013, Ottawa Magazine honoured the captain with the “Alfie Pack,” deconstructing the Senators’ icon with 11 essays on No. 11. By July, he was a Detroit Red Wing.
On December 1, Alfie and the Red Wings visit the Canadian Tire Centre for the first time since the deal was done. In the lead-up to the big event, Ottawa Magazine revisits our 11 essays — one essay per day for 11 days. (Want a copy? Back issues for sale here.)
Turning It up to 11: Alfie as the Most-Hated Man in Toronto
Hearing his name, the crowd burst to life, a deep, lowing booooooo soaking the entirety of the arena
By Dave Bidini
A few months ago they were celebrating the 62/63 Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. I sat in the press box, which is something I sometimes do.
The Leafs were playing Ottawa in the Battle of Ontario, even though it’s lately been a war fought mostly in the stands: hairy, swearing men versus hairier, swearier men all drunk on the same bad beer.
I was once compelled by this battle in my time following the Maple Leafs through the 2000s. Back then, I remember being booked to appear at a bookstore in Edmonton (to promote my book Baseballissimo) but hid in my hotel room as long as I could to watch the late stages of a playoff game taking place in Ottawa.
The publicist found me, pushed me into her car, then pulled me to the reading. The bookseller was livid that I was 20 minutes late, telling me that I would no longer be welcomed back. But it was okay. The Leafs won, the Senators did not, and Edmonton notwithstanding, all was steady in my world.
The ceremony to honour Leaf septuagenarians was a plodding affair, as most of these things are that don’t involve the Montreal Canadiens, and even then, their more-is-more routine and a penchant for honouring Vincent Damphousse was wearing a little thin.
I was sitting next to writer Michael Farber, who expressed great dismay at the library quiet of the arena. I reminded him that Toronto fans have always been the league’s quietest and that neither he nor any other visitor should expect anything more. Then he asked, holding up his hands, “But don’t hockey fans here get excited about anything?”