A capacity crowd of more than 500 people filled the Infinity Convention Centre, November 13, to honour Daniel Alfredsson at the 2018 Jewish National Fund (JNF) of Ottawa Negev Dinner.
Alfredsson, the Ottawa Senators’ captain for 13 seasons, was inducted into the International Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018. The beloved retired hockey player, who now calls Ottawa home, w been active in raising awareness about mental health, most notably as the public face of the Royal Ottawa’s “You know Who I Am” campaign.
Funds raised by this year’s Negev Dinner will support the Daniel Alfredsson Social Services Centre at the Israel Tennis Centre (ITC) in Kiryat Shmona. One of Israel’s largest social service organizations for children, the ITC offers at-risk youth free access to social programs via tennis, social workers and help with language skills in a caring and safe environment.
“The Israel Tennis Centre in Kiryat Shmona feeds the minds, bodies and souls of its young participants,” said Honorary Dinner Co-Chair Barbara Crook. “Tennis is just the starting point for young people to learn to make healthy and positive choices in life, from socialization and teamwork to overcoming challenges.”
Alfredsson, who was welcomed by the crowd to cheers of “Alfie, Alfie,” said the ITC “struck a chord” with him. “It teaches youth the necessary tools and skills, not just for sport, but for life in general,” he said.
“I am an advocate for mental health, so naturally I will be supporting a project that is at the forefront of anti-stigma in mental health,” said Alfredsson in the evening’s commemorative program. “Israel is a leader in medical innovation, so I am confident my project will be an example of innovation in integrating at-risk youth into society.”
Now a Canadian citizen, Alfredsson talked about how welcoming the community was to him and his family.
“You made me part of your community and all around me I saw and met people whose values aligned with mine, who believed in the importance of giving back to the community in any way you can,” he said. “You call it tzedakah – fairness, righteousness and justice. This room is full of tzedakah. Our community is full of tzedakah.”
The enthusiastic audience applauded when Alfredsson, speaking about his hockey career in both Sweden and Canada said, “I look at my resumé… its pretty good, but there was something missing – the Jewish connection.”
Israeli tennis legend and former ITC student, Andy Ram, was the evening’s keynote speaker. Ram represented Israel at three Olympics – Athens (2004), Beijing (2008) and London (2012). The first Israeli to win a grand slam title (Wimbledon 2006), Ram also won the mixed doubles at the French Open (2007) and the Australian Open (2008), and beat Russia at the Davis Cup (2009).
Born in Uruguay, Ram immigrated to Israel as a child and had a difficult adjustment to a new country and a new language. His parents sent him to the ITC, where he thrived.
“I am grateful for all the support you give Israel,” Ram told the audience. “Because of people like you, I had the chance to achieve my dreams and the children of Israel who watched me on TV have the chance to achieve their dreams.”
In his closing remarks, Rabbi Reuven Bulka, the Negev Dinner MC, told Alfredsson, “When you are inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame, you will be the first one to have been a Negev Dinner honouree.”
As a souvenir of the event, guests received an appropriately redesigned JNF “blue box” – a bright red box bearing Alfredsson’s photo.