OTTAWA — There was just one non-San Jose Sharks reporter waiting for Erik Karlsson when he walked into the Canadian Tire Center media room after practice today.
“Wow, big crowd,” Karlsson cracked, as he strode to the stage sporting Brent Burns’s stick.
Safe to say, three years later, Karlsson’s return to Ottawa isn’t the big deal that it used to be.
When Karlsson, who won two Norris Trophies as a Senator, returned to Ottawa in November 2018 for the first time after being dealt to the San Jose Sharks, there was a sea of reporters waiting for him. Infamously, Ken Campbell, then of The Hockey News, tried to get the jump on Karlsson’s return to Ottawa by asking him about it in Toronto, where the Sharks had played the night before. Karlsson had previously stated that he didn’t want to talk about Ottawa until he was in Ottawa.
— TSN 1200 (@TSN1200) November 29, 2018
Despite the diminished fanfare, playing in Ottawa will always be special for Karlsson, off to a torrid start this season with four points through two games.
“It will always be a little bit different walking in here, playing for different team,” Karlsson acknowledged. The Senators drafted Karlsson in the first round of the 2008 Draft, and the swashbuckling defenseman returned the favor by leading Ottawa to Game Seven of the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals: “It’s always gonna be a special place for me. I have lots of friends here and family and it’s always fun to play in front of them.”
In fact, Karlsson, wife Melinda, and daughter Harlow Rain still reside in Ottawa during the off-season. This off-season, however, Karlsson trained all summer in San Jose. So today’s off-day will be a chance for Karlsson to catch up with his “forever home.”
“I got some friends in town. I haven’t seen [Daniel Alfredsson] for a long time now,” Karlsson shared.
Also making his return to Ottawa, with even less fanfare than Karlsson?
Rookie Jonathan Dahlen, Ottawa’s 2016 second-round pick, traded to Vancouver in 2017, then San Jose in 2019. The 23-year-old winger scored the first two goals of his NHL career in the Sharks’ 5-0 victory over the Canadiens yesterday.
“I remember when [Jonathan] got drafted here to Ottawa, we exchanged texts,” Karlsson recalled. “It’s funny how it works out, we’re playing together in San Jose.”
The 31-year-old continued: “His dad [Ulf Dahlen] coached me in Sweden back in 2006, 2007, 2008, somewhere around there. So I remember Jonathan when he was like, I think he was five, six years old back then. He had the hair that I did last year.”
The famously long-haired Karlsson, who went short this summer, then smiled: “It also reminds you that you’ve been around for a long time.”
Finally, what was Karlsson doing with Burns’s stick?
“I’m giving it to a friend’s kid,” Karlsson said, before quipping, “It’s not for me. I’ve got my own.”
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