Daniel Alfredsson’s decision to spurn the Ottawa Senators and sign with the Detroit Red Wings was a lot of things. A reminder that anything can happen in pro sports. A shift in the balance of power of one of the league’s toughest divisions. A cautionary tale of the dangers in a fan base placing too much faith in one player.
And here’s one more: It was a damn near perfect pro wrestling–style heel turn.
It had all the elements. There was the subtle shift in personality that turned out to be ironic foreshadowing. Then came the sudden, devastating blindside that his adoring fans never saw coming. And he followed it up with a classic post-turn explanation, twisting the knife even further with quotes like “It pretty much came down to a selfish decision” and “I’m not worried about my legacy in Ottawa.”
He hasn’t even bothered to take out the now-obligatory good-bye/thank you ad in local papers. Alfredsson couldn’t have turned heel any more brilliantly if he’d paused to spray-paint “DRW” on Spartacat’s back.
NHL history is filled with villains who are hated across the league but loved (or at least tolerated) by the home crowd. But Alfredsson was a reminder that every now and then, we get treated to something far more entertaining — the hometown hero who dramatically turns his back on the fans.
Let’s take a look back at a half-dozen of the greatest heel turns in NHL history.