You had to move faster than a speeding slapshot to get a ticket to this morning’s Mayor’s Breakfast featuring the greatest player in the history of the Ottawa Senators, Daniel Alfredsson, in a memorable conversation with our new mayor, Mark Sutcliffe.
The quickly sold-out breakfast was hosted by the Ottawa Board of Trade (OBoT) and Ottawa Business Journal at City Hall.
Interestingly, Sutcliffe co-founded the mayor’s breakfast series some 25 years ago, when he was publisher of OBJ and board member with OBoT (formerly the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce).
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“I never thought I’d be here as the mayor of Ottawa myself,” said Sutcliffe while speaking to an audience of about 250 on a milestone morning – his 100th day in office.
Attendees got a quick update on the mayor’s economic summit last week involving more than 125 business leaders, who brainstormed new ways to strengthen the economy, revitalize downtown Ottawa and the ByWard Market, and attract and retain the best talent.
City council is also getting ready to approve its 2023 budget, which Sutcliffe is hopeful will include a low tax increase and critical investments in local infrastructure, public safety, addressing homelessness, and many other priorities, attendees heard.
“We have a lot to be proud of as a city,” said Sutcliffe, listing off the new non-stop flight service between Paris and Ottawa, the return of live events, and Canadian-born actor Ryan Reynolds’ keen interest in becoming part-owner of the Ottawa Senators as a few things Ottawa residents can look forward to.
Our mayor’s well-honed experience of interviewing people, through his former roles in broadcast journalism, came in handy as he sat down with Alfredsson to talk about a range of topics, including his hockey career, his community work and his thoughts on the future of the Ottawa Senators and the potential role he sees for himself with the hockey club.
Every attendee of the breakfast received a free pair of tickets to next week’s game, courtesy of the team.
Alfredsson, who was the longest-serving captain of the Senators, played 18 seasons in the NHL, retiring in 2014. He received the Key to the City in 2015 and last fall was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He’s arguably Sweden’s most beloved export (sorry, Ikea).
Alfredsson, affectionately known as Alfie, has been a longtime advocate for mental health through his volunteer work with The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health, inspired in part by his own sister’s struggles. Because of his involvement, far more people have been talking more openly about mental health and mental illness, the room heard.
Alfredsson described his advocacy as “the most rewarding thing” he’s done in his life.
Even though the Ottawa Senators have been struggling in recent years to make the playoffs, Alfredsson remains positive about the future of the team.
Due to the recent passing of former owner Eugene Melnyk, the Sens are currently up for sale, with no shortage of deep-pocketed interested buyers. There are also plans to develop a new hockey arena in the LeBreton Flats district of downtown Ottawa.
The retired athlete has chosen to take on an unofficial role with the hockey club. He’s been working with some of the players and, in the process, been getting to know them.
“I said I want to wait to see what happened, but I would love for it to be a meaningful role. That was my feeling in the summer, and I feel it even more so now, being around the team.
“I think with my experience, and what they’re going through now; I was there early in my career, how we went from being the worst team in the league to consistently being a playoff team. I feel I have a lot to contribute in that role, so that’s kind of what I’m hoping. We’ll see what happens with the new ownership, but that’s my dream job.”
Replied the mayor: “I hope it happens. I think that would be good.”
As for the audience, it reacted with its applause of approval.
Here are a few other things we learned this morning about Alfredsson: He loves padel, a racquet sport that’s a mix of tennis and squash. “Not pickleball but similar,” said Alfredsson, who set up an outdoor court at the Rideau Sports Centre and is looking for space to create an indoor facility.
Physically, he was a late bloomer.
“I hit puberty later than most,” said Alfredsson, who said he was more interested in being at the rink than at parties. “I was kind of nerdy that way. I just wanted to do sports; that was my thing.”
He knows what animal he’d be reincarnated as: a dog that runs forever, as long as he has a ball to keep chasing.
“I’m not a guy who goes out and runs for the sake of running,” said Alfredsson.
“Who would do that?” said a sarcastic Sutcliffe, two-time Boston Marathon finisher and author of Why I Run.
The mayor also wanted to know why Alfredsson, a married father of four boys, decided to settle in Ottawa after he was done playing with the Senators.
“LRT,” he deadpanned without skipping a beat, sending his audience into stitches.
Sadly, the city’s much-anticipated light rail transit system has caused nothing but headaches since it started running in 2019. As a result, it’s also the butt of many jokes.
“Last question, because I know you have a train to catch,” began Sutcliffe.
“I’m going to try,” quipped Alfredsson.
The conversation ended with Alfredsson encouraging people to be less polarized, less angry.
“We have to look after each other, first and foremost,” he said. “I feel we have that in this city, and I hope we don’t lose that.
“It’s like a hockey team, we look after each other. We care about everybody and we all do our part to help contribute.”