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Daniel Alfredsson poses with Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk (left) and general manager Brian Murray (right) after signing a one day contract to return to the Senators during a press conference at Canadian Tire Centre where he announced that he would be retiring.

Daniel Alfredsson rehearsed the speech 10 or 15 times. When he read it to a friend over the phone, he cried.

The longtime Senators captain read it one more time Thursday morning at Canadian Tire Centre with family, friends and former teammates watching.

"Here we are," Alfredsson said. "Today I officially retire as an Ottawa Senator and another new chapter will begin tonight as we say goodbye to Ottawa."

Alfredsson called it a career back in the nation's capital, his "adopted hometown," the place he played 17 of his 18 NHL seasons. The captain from 1999 through 2013 who left 17 months ago to sign with the Detroit Red Wings got to put on his old red No. 11 Senators jersey for one more day.

The 41-year-old signed a ceremonial one-day contract that will allow him to lace up his skates in his old stall and take part in pre-game warm-ups with his old team.

"Being out there with the boys again, is going to be a special feeling," Alfredsson said. "I'm going to try to not fall down."

The Senators pulled out all the stops to honour Alfredsson on what unofficially became "Alfie Day" in Ottawa. Wife Bibbi and sons Hugo, Loui, Fenix and William, along with former teammates like Erik Karlsson and Wade Redden, looked on as the face of the franchise bid adieu, a decision prompted by lingering back problems.

Alfredsson, who had 444 goals and 713 assists in 1,246 NHL games, tried to rehab the injury. If he played one more season, it would have been for the Red Wings.

According to Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, he and general manager Bryan Murray would have welcomed him back to Ottawa.

"During the summer we spoke a couple of times, but it was more about how he felt and whether he could play 100 per cent," Melnyk said. "Bryan and I said, 'Look, give us 80 per cent, we're happy.' And he would not play unless he was 100 per cent."

Remembered fondly for the goal he scored against the Buffalo Sabres to send the Senators to the Stanley Cup final in 2007, for the love fest at the 2012 all-star game and for winning a gold medal with Sweden at the 2006 Olympics, Alfredsson also knows his career was marked with phone calls and major decisions.

It began with the decision to leave Goteborg, Sweden at 22 to play for the Senators, who drafted him in the sixth round in 1994. Alfredsson was glad he and Bibbi, his girlfriend at the time, "made the leap."

"One evening nearly 20 years ago a young man in a small town in Sweden got a phone call that would change his life," Alfredsson said. "We began an incredible new chapter of our lives in your town starting in August 1995. Our marvellous boys were born here, and we grew from youngsters into aging parents. You made your town our town."

Ottawa was Alfredsson's town in his Calder Trophy season in 1995-96 and through 15 playoff appearances. One of his favourite memories was seeing thousands of people lined up along the street to celebrate the trip to the Cup final.

"It was an incredible experience to play hockey with so many great players, so many great friends over so many great seasons," he said. "I really realize that I'm a very lucky guy."

Back problems flared up in 2011, what Alfredsson called "signals that all these years of hockey had a cost."

"I worked hard to fight it off and I got some great help along the way," he said. "But in the back of my mind, I still knew that the clock is ticking."

With the clock ticking on his career, Alfredsson got to a crossroads in the summer of 2013, after he decided to continue playing but did not have a contract to return to the Senators. On the morning of June 29, he said he got a call from "an old Swedish pal."

"This call started a process that would launch the next chapter in our lives," Alfredsson said of signing with Detroit. "It was a very, very hard decision to make: changing teams, uproot my family, start over again in a new place. But change helps you grow."

No doubt the relationship between Alfredsson and the Senators organization was strained by his departure. But during and after an off-and-on injury season with the Red Wings that still included him tying for the team lead in scoring, Alfredsson stayed in touch with Murray.

"I have great respect for Daniel and I know he has great respect for the Senators for what happened here," said Murray, who coached Alfredsson for two seasons, including 2006-07. "It wasn't very hard for us to get together and talk. He took me for a drive in his new car. He drove me out to my old house in Birmingham (Michigan). He showed me where he lived. We had I think mutual respect for each other all along."

Setbacks in Alfredsson's rehab kept him from playing and forced him to make one final decision.

"It finally came to the point: Could I play a little bit? Maybe," Alfredsson said. "I don't know what I price I would have had to pay down the road. I felt it was no fun just being on the edge or on the cliff of maybe or maybe not playing. It just felt right."

It wouldn't have felt right to the Senators if Alfredsson had said his goodbye to the NHL in Detroit. Again, the phone rang.

"Bryan said he and Mr. Melnyk had spoken and had an idea that I should not end my career in Detroit but with a proper retirement here in our adopted hometown," Alfredsson recalled. "I spoke with (Red Wings GM) Ken Holland about my retirement and that Bryan and Mr. Melnyk wanted me to retire as an Ottawa Senator, and Ken encouraged me to retire here. He said it's the right thing to do."

Alfredsson, lauded not just for his Hall of Fame hockey career but his charitable contributions in Ottawa, is about as normal a person as a superstar athlete can be. To him, this felt like too much.

"I never believed that my career entitled me to any special treatment," Alfredsson said. "However Bibbi and I both agreed this was the right thing to do and it would give us a chance to say thank you to the people and the fans of Ottawa."

Alfredsson received a lengthy standing ovation after his speech of 749 words, including four in French for the bilingual market he represented: "Merci et a bientot." He doesn't know how soon he might get back into hockey but is reserving this year for his family and for himself to reflect on his career.

"I'm just very grateful for this opportunity to say thank you and goodbye," Alfredsson said. "And please no more phone calls for a while."