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Alfie by Erik Karlsson – The Players' Tribune

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I remember his face when he got the call.

All business.

Then a big smile.

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A big Alfie smile. 

I was sitting across from him back home in Sweden this summer. We both knew the call might come that day. We’d waited for it together on the same day the last couple of years. So to be there when it happened, to see firsthand how much it meant to him — to his family, his boys — it was really special.

Daniel Alfredsson, Hockey Hall of Fame, Class of 2022.

I’m so happy for you, Alfie.

You deserve it for a million different reasons, lots of which everyone knows. They saw it with their own eyes. You were an incredible player. But I was lucky enough to see up close just what an incredible person you are. And if everyone doesn’t mind … I just want to talk about my buddy for a few minutes. 

There are a lot of places I could start. But one of the best experiences from my time in Ottawa was the night Alfie retired as a Senator. December 4, 2014. Packed house. His beautiful family by his side. I remember standing near the bench with his boys, watching him as he stood under the spotlight at center ice. The arena was going crazy. It felt like all of Ottawa was there with us. Like they were there with him. He stood there for a few seconds and, man, you could just feel the love —the appreciation. You don’t hear many rinks like that, you really don’t.

Erik Karlsson | San Jose Sharks | Alfie | The Players’ Tribune
Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty

In that moment, what I knew already was just reinforced: Ottawa loves Alfie like a son, and he loves it right back. He always has. There are a lot of guys who win Cups, who win different awards and all that. But there’s not many who could get a reaction like that from their city. And it’s because of who he is as a man, the connection he’s made with so many Senator fans. I learned that the second I became a part of the organization.

Actually, probably a few seconds before.

The 2008 draft was in Ottawa. I had no idea where I was going. Some teams were interested but not even my agent had a good idea. There were some rumblings when Ottawa traded up for the 15th pick. And then Alfie walked up onstage to announce it. The place went wild. Alfie! Alfie! Alfie! 

I don’t remember him saying it because I was too excited, but I know at some point he said, “The Ottawa Senators select, with their first selection, Erik Karlsson, from Frolunda, Sweden.” Then I sort of just blacked out. Thankfully it’s on YouTube somewhere out there I’m sure. But I do remember how excited the building was to see him, and how nice he was to me. As a European player the draft can be extremely overwhelming. I didn’t know anyone and it was just a whirlwind, but Alfie made me feel comfortable right away.

That summer he invited me to his home in Sweden, and I got to meet his whole family. He treated me like one of his boys and they were all so kind to me. I was really happy to be a Senator for a lot of reasons. I’d heard so many great things about the city and team. But being able to hopefully play alongside Alfie one day … that would have been a dream for any Swedish player my age.

All the guys I played with back home knew who he was, of course. He was a hero! See, when I was growing up, we really didn’t follow the NHL too much. I know we played the video games on my SEGA. My friends and I did actually pick the Sens a lot because they were pretty good back then. But we followed hockey through our local teams and the Swedish national team.

Erik Karlsson | San Jose Sharks | Alfie | The Players’ TribuneErik Karlsson | San Jose Sharks | Alfie | The Players’ Tribune
Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty

And any Swede will remember 2006 and the Turin Olympics.

I was 15 years old, completely obsessed with hockey. My team and I watched every game. And the gold medal game was one of those nights — one of those moments, really — that just sticks with you. It meant so much to us. So much. Maybe more than I could really even understand at that age. To beat Finland, too, extra sweet. Alfie was a big part of that team, along with so many legends (Congratulations, Henrik and Daniel!) who inspired a whole generation of kids. We have a lot of great players these days, but people forget we’re a small country. What that team accomplished … it will be felt in Sweden for a long, long time.

A couple of years later, I was playing for Frolunda. Alfie had played there for a bit before heading to Ottawa. He meant a lot to that club, and you couldn’t find somebody who didn’t love to tell you their favorite goal or moment of his. He’d come around the facility in the off-season and treat everybody like they were family. I’ll never forget that. 

Going into my rookie season in Ottawa, knowing the type of guy Alfie was made all the difference for me. I really mean that. If I’m being honest with you … I know I wouldn’t have become the player I am today without his help. I had a different style at the time than a lot of other NHL defensemen and it wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea. But Alfie knew me, he knew what I could do, what I wanted to do. And I don’t know exactly how he did it, but having him in my corner … he protected me, in a way. I was allowed to play my game. And I think that’s a huge part of why I found success quickly in Ottawa. 

Off the ice … well, he became a great friend. He was the best man at my wedding in 2017. He and his family mean the world to my wife, Mel, and I.

I really do feel so lucky to know him. And to have played beside him? Pretty cool, if you ask me. I’ll cherish our time on the national team together in Sochi in 2014. That was a dream come true.  His 1,000th game — so glad I got to be there for that.Seeing him score his 400th goal — what a moment. What can I say? I’m a big fan.

When I got the C in Ottawa, I knew what it meant because of everything I’d learned from him. His connection with the city became mine, and we both still call the city home. I’ll always love Ottawa, and that’s in part because of Alfie.

The day he retired as a Senator in 2014, the whole night was supposed to be about him. And rightfully so. But I remember getting to the rink and all his boys were wearing my jersey. Not their dad’s — mine. I had just become the captain a few months earlier, and I knew that Alfie meant it as a gesture to everyone. As if to say, My time is done, let’s get behind Erik and the team. Even up to his very last day as a Senator, he still had my back. That’s just who he is. 

He’s “Uncle Alfie” to my kids, and when they get old enough to know him better, they’re going to realize that he’s a wonderful man. A great father, a great husband, a great human being. He treated everybody with respect. He knew right from wrong. He cared passionately about the game of hockey and the city of Ottawa. He still does.

It feels incredible to say that my best friend is going into the Hall of Fame.

Congratulations, buddy.

–Erik

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Maple Leafs’ Morgan Rielly calls his shot on John Tavares’ big night – Sportsnet.ca

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Bengals vs Chiefs Touchdown Props for the AFC Championship – Best Touchdown Scorer Bets – Covers

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The AFC Championship on Sunday features a rematch of last year’s conference title game as Cincinnati travels to Arrowhead to take on Kansas City. Read more to find out our favorite anytime touchdown props for Bengals vs. Chiefs.

Last Updated:
Jan 29, 2023 2:43 PM ET

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The second of Sunday’s two Conference Championship games could be an absolute classic, with the Cincinnati Bengals facing the Kansas Chiefs for a trip to the Super Bowl

There’s plenty of scoring opportunity in this game for bettors, so why don’t we get right into the action? Don’t miss our NFL anytime touchdown prop picks for the Bengals vs. Chiefs on January 29.

For more, be sure to check out Jason Logan’s full AFC Championship betting preview, as well as our Bengals vs. Chiefs prop picks

Bengals vs Chiefs touchdown props

Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.

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Bengals vs Chiefs TD props

Mr. Dependable

At +100, you won’t find a better prop bet for the AFC Championship game. While the injury to Patrick Mahomes will probably limit Kansas City‘s volume of passing, Travis Kelce is the heartbeat of this team and will always be involved — especially in the red zone.

He’s had 14 touchdowns this season, with two of those coming last week against the Jaguars. With the season on the line and Mahomes banged up for most of it, Kelce was still targeted an incredible 17 times and recorded 14 receptions. 

The Mahomes-Kelce connection is one of the strongest in the NFL. With the chance to reach the Super Bowl in play, you can guarantee they’ll be looking for their All-Pro tight end to play an important role. 

Prop: Travis Kelce anytime touchdown (-105)

Chase can’t be caught

If Kelce is the man to trust for the Chiefs, then the same can be said of Ja’Marr Chase for the Bengals. His chemistry with Joe Burrow is arguably in the same bracket as that of Mahomes and Kelce, dating back to their time playing together at LSU.

Chase finished the regular season sixth in touchdowns scored (9), which is not bad for a player who missed all of November with a hip injury.

The star wideout has scored in each of the Bengals’ two playoff games and has been targeted at least eight times in all but one game this season. At odds of +100, it makes too much sense to bet on Chase’s anytime market.

Prop: Ja’Marr Chase anytime touchdown (-105)

Covers NFL betting tools

1B to Chase’s 1A

You could make a serious argument that Tee Higgins is the best second option in any team’s receiving corps. Although he isn’t always Burrow’s first read, he’s still a hugely important part of this team and can often thrive with the opposition’s best corner shadowing Chase.

Higgins surpassed 1,000 yards on the season, scored seven touchdowns, and could very well add to that tally against a Chiefs secondary that is far from the best in the NFL. 

Although he’s gone scoreless in his past three outings for the Bengals, Higgins successfully reached paydirt in all of the four games prior. When these two teams met in early December, Higgin hauled in three of his five targets and scored a touchdown.

It wouldn’t be a shock to see him do it again on Sunday.

Prop: Tee Higgins anytime touchdown (+195)

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Eagles ride ground game to Super Bowl LVII with win over 49ers – TSN

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jalen Hurts can conduct a singalong about as well as he can orchestrate the kind of punishing scoring drives that sent the Eagles into the Super Bowl.

At the end of one more triumph, Hurts stood on the stage on the field — as his Eagles teammates passed around the NFC championship trophy — and clutched a microphone in front of what was suddenly Philadelphia’s largest karaoke joint. His rendition of the team fight song was a tad off-key.

Hurts may not sing as well as he can score, but it was another memorable moment in a season full of them. And the Eagles don’t believe they’re done yet.

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“We’ve got new moments,” Hurts said. “New moments and new times.”

Hurts had one of Philadelphia’s four rushing touchdowns and the Eagles soared into the Super Bowl, forcing both of San Francisco’s quarterbacks out of the game with injuries and beating the wounded 49ers 31-7 in the NFC championship game on Sunday.

The Eagles, who won the Super Bowl five years ago with a different coach and quarterback, will try to do it again behind the formidable duo of Hurts and coach Nick Sirianni. Philadelphia will play either the Cincinnati Bengals or former Eagles coach Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs.

“We get to do it because we did it better than anyone in the NFC this year,” Sirianni said.

Hurts had a modest game by his standards after a season in which he was a finalist for MVP. He was 15-of-25 passing for 121 yards and ran for 39, improving to 16-1 as a starter this season. The Eagles (16-3) lost two games that he missed with a sprained right shoulder.

Hurts sat alone at his locker dressed all in purple and he took a few puffs of a cigar as the Eagles celebrated around him. He understood there was one more game to win.

“I never knew how far we’d go,” Hurts said, “but I never said it couldn’t be done.”

Miles Sanders ran for two touchdowns and linebacker Haason Reddick made the hit that forced 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy out of the game with an elbow injury. Reddick also recovered a fumble by Purdy’s replacement, Josh Johnson, who later suffered a concussion.

That forced Purdy back into the game, but his injury was clearly a factor as the 49ers all but gave up on the passing game, even while trailing by multiple scores. Purdy said he was unable to throw the ball more than 10 yards after his elbow got hurt.

San Francisco’s bad luck at quarterback was finally too much to overcome as its 12-game win streak ended. The Niners (15-5) lost both Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo to season-ending injuries, and Purdy — the final pick in April’s draft — lost as a starter for the first time.

Philadelphia police greased traffic and light poles in what proved again to be a futile attempt to slow the postgame revelry. The city now has its beloved Birds in the Super Bowl just three months after the Philadelphia Phillies reached the World Series.

“When you guys go into our indoor (practice facility), there’s always that picture in the back part of it of the 2017 NFC championship game, and it’s just the electricity of the stadium,” said Sirianni, who was hired two years ago to replace the Eagles’ Super Bowl-winning coach, Doug Pederson. “We’re looking forward to getting another picture up there of this special moment that we had.”

The game disintegrated in the waning minutes and Philadelphia’s K’Von Wallace and San Francisco’s Trent Williams were ejected for their roles in a brawl. Williams yanked Wallace from behind and slammed him to the ground.

The moment only seemed to rile up Eagles fans even more as they soon waved their green towels and went wild as confetti fluttered around them.

“We’ve got one more game for the rest of our lives,” Sanders said.

TAKING CONTROL

The Eagles broke the game open in the final two minutes of the first half, getting a rise out of a crowd that had been quiet with nervous energy since a touchdown on the opening drive.

Sanders broke free for a 13-yard run for a 14-7 lead, concluding a 14-play, 75-yard drive extended by three 49ers penalties.

Johnson bobbled a shotgun snap and fumbled on the next drive, and Reddick — the free-agent pickup from Carolina having one of the great defensive seasons in franchise history — recovered at the San Francisco 30. Boston Scott scooted 10 yards for a touchdown and 21-7 lead.

Even with Hurts almost a non-factor — he had 97 yards passing in the first half — the Eagles were firmly in control. His 1-yard rushing touchdown on Philadelphia’s signature rugby-style QB sneak made it 28-7 late in the third quarter.

“We’ve got a chance to go out there and win it all,” Hurts said. “So we want to go prepare to go do that.”

The Eagles used quick thinking as they scored on their opening drive for the second straight playoff game. DeVonta Smith made a sensational one-handed grab for 29 yards, but replays showed he appeared to lose control of the ball as he hit the ground. Smith popped up and frantically waved the Eagles to the line. Niners coach Kyle Shanahan did not challenge the call and the Eagles got off the next play. Sanders scored on a 6-yard run.

“Smart players do smart things,” Sirianni said. “He did a smart thing right there. I’m going to say he caught it, though.”

NINERS’ NADIR

Purdy left the game with an elbow injury after he was drilled in the arm by Reddick on San Francisco’s first drive. The play was initially ruled an incomplete pass, but replays confirmed it was a fumble.

“I knew that was a sack-fumble because I got my hand on the ball,” Reddick said.

He also got his hand on Purdy’s arm, changing the course of the game. The 23-year-old Purdy’s improbable rise from “Mr. Irrelevant” to playoff starter ended with a whimper as he failed to become the first rookie QB to lead a team to the Super Bowl.

He was improbably needed again in the third quarter after Johnson, a journeyman backup signed in December, was also injured.

“I hurt for these guys,” Shanahan said. “We felt really good about this game. It was tough circumstances.”

With little hope they could get anything going behind Johnson, the 49ers turned to Christian McCaffrey, a midseason acquisition who led the team with 13 TDs in the regular season and playoffs, to get on the board. He broke three tackles on a 23-yard touchdown run that made it 7-7 in the second quarter.

That turned out to be the only moment of hope for Shanahan’s Niners, who managed 164 yards of offense and 11 first downs.

“You’re never out of the fight,” McCaffrey said. “We believed it and it just didn’t turn out our way. We got beat and wish we had another shot at it with everybody.”

IN THE HOUSE

First lady Jill Biden, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, actor Bradley Cooper, comedian Kevin Hart, Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout and several 76ers, including Joel Embiid, attended the game.

UP NEXT

The Eagles will play in the fourth Super Bowl in franchise history on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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