Spezza with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2020
June 13, 1983|
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
|Height||6 ft 3 in (191 cm)|
|Weight||214 lb (97 kg; 15 st 4 lb)|
Toronto Maple Leafs|
SC Rapperswil-Jona Lakers
2nd overall, 2001|
After beginning his major junior career at the early age of 15 in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Spezza was selected second overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft by the Ottawa Senators, eventually serving as their team captain following the departure of Daniel Alfredsson. Playing in the American Hockey League (AHL) in 2004-05 due to the NHL lockout, he won the Les Cunningham Award as league MVP with the Binghamton Senators. In 2005-06, Spezza set an Ottawa Senators franchise record with 71 assists, while hitting the 90-point mark for the first of two times in his NHL career.
Internationally, Spezza has represented Canada at three World Junior Championships and two World Championships. When he made his World Junior debut in 2000, he became just the third 16-year-old in history to make the team, behind Wayne Gretzky and Eric Lindros.
Jason Rocco Anthony Spezza was born on June 13, 1983, in Mississauga, Ontario. He was born to Italian parents Rino and Donna Spezza along with twin siblings Michelle and Matthew, an ice hockey goaltender who most recently played for the Flint Generals of the International Hockey League (IHL). Growing up in the Toronto area, he watched the Toronto Maple Leafs, but has cited Mario Lemieux as his favourite player as a child. Spezza attended St. Michael's College School.
At age one, Spezza won a baby contest and began his youth modelling career. The victory resulted in Spezza becoming the poster boy for Baby, a Broadway musical that played at Toronto's O'Keefe Centre in the summer of 1984. At age five, Spezza was chosen for a Minute Maid commercial. Two years later, he modelled clothing for stores Woolco and Kmart.
Spezza played for the Toronto Marlboros in 1997, recording 114 points in 54 games. At age 15, Spezza began his major junior career in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Brampton Battalion in 1998-99, under a rule permitting the then-underage player to play on his hometown team. He scored at more than a point-per-game pace as an underaged player with 71 points in 67 games. He subsequently became the youngest player ever to participate in an OHL All-Star game at age 15. After one season with the Battalion, he was required to enter the OHL Priority Draft and was selected by the expansion Mississauga IceDogs in the team's second season in 1999-2000. He recorded 61 points in 52 games that season before requesting a trade and subsequently being dealt 15 games into the 2000-01 season to the Windsor Spitfires. Spezza went on to record an OHL career-high 116 points in 66 games that season.
Entering the 2001 NHL Entry Draft having been named the Top CHL Prospect, Spezza was drafted second overall by the Ottawa Senators, after Ilya Kovalchuk was selected by the Atlanta Thrashers. The second overall pick originally belonged to the New York Islanders but was traded to Ottawa (along with Zdeno Chára and Bill Muckalt) in exchange for Alexei Yashin on the day of the Draft. During the summer of 2001, Spezza passed on an invitation to the Canadian junior team's summer camp because he said he wanted to prepare for his first NHL camp.
After one more OHL season split between the Spitfires and the Belleville Bulls, resulting in a 105-point season, Spezza began his professional career in the American Hockey League (AHL). He signed his first professional contract with the Senators, a multi-year deal, on September 5, 2001.
Following Spezza's fourth OHL season in 2001-02, he was assigned to the Senators' AHL affiliate the Grand Rapids Griffins for the 2002 Calder Cup playoffs, where he made his professional debut, playing in three playoff games and scoring one goal. He made his NHL debut the next season in 2002-03 with Ottawa, playing in 33 games and recording 21 points, and scored his first NHL goal on October 29, 2002, in a 2-1 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers. However, he played the majority of the season in the AHL with Ottawa's new affiliate, the Binghamton Senators, and was called-up regularly to replace injured Ottawa players. He also competed in three Stanley Cup playoff games with Ottawa during his rookie season, helping the team in its 2003 playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals. In his playoff debut on May 21, 2003, Spezza assisted on the game-winning goal in Game 3. The Senators came within one game of the Finals, losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils.
Spezza played his first full NHL season with the Senators in 2003-04 and scored 22 goals and 55 points in 78 games. However, due to the subsequent NHL lockout, Spezza returned to the AHL in 2004-05. Scoring 117 points with Binghamton, he outscored Michael Cammalleri of the Manchester Monarchs by eight points to capture the John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the league's leading scorer. Spezza was also awarded the Les Cunningham Award as league MVP.
With NHL play set to resume in 2005-06, Spezza returned to Ottawa. Having traded centres Radek Bonk and Todd White during the off-season, the Senators started Spezza on the first line between Dany Heatley and rookie Brandon Bochenski, who was Spezza's linemate in Binghamton. After captain Daniel Alfredsson replaced Bochenski on the top line (Bochenski was soon thereafter traded), the trio, nicknamed the "CASH" and "Pizza" line. Wingers Alfredsson and Heatley both finished tied for fourth in league scoring with 103 points, while Spezza tallied 90 points despite an injury-shortened 68-game season. His 71 assists established a team single-season record and was second in the league behind Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks (96 assists). In the 2006 playoffs, the Senators defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round, but fell to the Buffalo Sabres in five games. Spezza added 14 points in 10 playoff games.
During the summer of 2006, Spezza underwent successful back surgery. The following season, he continued on the same pace with Heatley and Alfredsson before suffering another injury. He managed a career-high 34 goals and finished with 87 points in 67 games. On May 19, 2007, he scored a goal and an assist as the Senators defeated the Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference Final four games to one. Ottawa moved to the Stanley Cup Final against the Anaheim Ducks, but lost in five games in large part because the Spezza-Heatley-Alfredsson line failed to perform against Samuel Påhlsson's checking line, backed by star defencemen Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger. Spezza finished the 2007 playoffs with a franchise-record 22 points, tied with linemates Alfredsson and Heatley.
Beginning the 2007-08 season in the final year of his contract, on November 2, 2007, Spezza signed a new seven-year, $49 million contract with the Senators effective from the 2008-09 season through to the 2014-15 season. Late that season, on February 9, 2008, Spezza scored his first NHL hat-trick during a 6-1 Senators victory over the Montreal Canadiens. Spezza contributed to all of his team's goals for a career-high six-point game. He finished the season tying his career-high in goals with 34 and establishing a new personal mark for points with 92. However, the Senators failed to advance past the first round following their Stanley Cup run the previous season, falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games.
The 2008-09 season was a disappointing one for both Spezza and the Senators. Though he managed to remain injury-free and played in all of his team's 82 games for the first time in his NHL career, his point production decreased. Spezza managed 73 points in 82 games, and while still respectable, the numbers were his lowest totals since his first full NHL season in 2003-04. The team struggled all season long and would miss the playoffs for the first time since 1995-96.
Despite missing 22 games due to injury in the 2009-10 season, Spezza still managed to score 23 goals and pick-up 34 assists for 57 points in 60 games to finish second on the team in scoring. In the first round of the 2010 playoffs, the Senators lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins four games to two. Spezza finished with one goal and six assists for seven points in the six games. He also led the team in shots on goal with 24. However, Spezza's poor defensive play and costly turnovers in that series resulted in him being booed by fans at Scotiabank Place, and the following off-season was rife with speculation that he would be traded. Spezza himself admitted that he would not object to a trade from Ottawa. Ultimately, no trade occurred.
On December 26, 2010, in a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Spezza was checked from behind into the boards by Penguins defenceman Kris Letang. Letang received a two-minute penalty for boarding and Spezza was expected to miss four-to-six weeks due to a consequent shoulder injury.
At the end of the 2010-11 season, Spezza was named an interim alternate captain for Ottawa after the team traded away Mike Fisher. In 2011-12, Spezza was named as a permanent alternate captain for the Senators. He remained injury-free and finished fourth in league scoring, earning consideration for the Hart Memorial Trophy. Spezza was ultimately not a finalist for the award, finishing sixth in voting.
Spezza spent time with Rapperswil-Jona Lakers of the Swiss National League A during the 2012-13 NHL lockout and returned to the Senators once a resolution had been negotiated. He registered two goals and three assists in five games before a back injury sidelined him. The Senators announced on January 31, 2013, that Spezza would be out of the Ottawa line-up for a minimum of two months (and possibly longer) as he required surgery for a herniated disc in his back. The injury occurred in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 27. Spezza ultimately missed the remainder of the regular season and the first round of the 2013 playoffs. He returned to action on May 19, 2013, for the third game of Ottawa's Eastern Conference Semi-final series against Pittsburgh.
On September 14, 2013, Spezza was named the eighth captain in Senators' franchise history, replacing long-time teammate Daniel Alfredsson, who joined the Detroit Red Wings as a free agent on July 5, 2013.
After the conclusion of his first season as the Senators captain in 2013-14, it was revealed by Senators general manager Bryan Murray that Spezza had requested a trade from the Senators. At the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, a potential trade to the Nashville Predators was negotiated by Murray but rejected by Spezza as the Predators were one of the teams listed in his limited contractual no-trade clause.
On July 1, 2014, Spezza was traded to the Dallas Stars (along with Ludwig Karlsson) in exchange for Alex Chiasson, Alex Guptill, Nick Paul and a second-round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. On November 21, Spezza signed a four-year contract with Dallas (effective from the 2015-16 season through to the 2018-19 season) worth an annual average value of $7.5 million. He recorded 17 goals and 45 assists in 82 games in his first season with the Stars, as they missed the 2015 playoffs. His offensive production improved the following season, scoring 33 goals in 75 games as the Stars qualified for the 2016 playoffs as the top seed in the Western Conference.
On July 1, 2019, as a free agent, Spezza signed a one-year, $700,000 contract for the 2019-20 season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team he supported as a child. On signing, Spezza said, "Just to have a chance to put on a Leaf jersey is going to be pretty special for me." However, Spezza was scratched for Toronto's opening night game against his former team, the Ottawa Senators, in a highly criticized move by Toronto's head coach Mike Babcock. Spezza made his debut with the Maple Leafs in the following game on October 5, against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
On October 5, 2020, Spezza signed a one-year, $700,000 extension with the Maple Leafs.
On January 17, 2021, the Maple Leafs placed Spezza on waivers after 3 games for salary cap reasons. Spezza's agent indicated that Spezza would retire if claimed by another team. Ultimately, he went unclaimed and cleared waivers to remain with the Maple Leafs. Two and a half weeks later, Spezza would go on to record his eighth career hat trick in a 7-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on February 4.
On June 16, 2021, Spezza re-signed with the Maple Leafs to a one-year, contract.
Spezza at the 2008 World Championships
|World Junior Championships|
As a junior, Spezza represented Canada's national junior team three consecutive years. He made his debut at the 2000 World Junior Championships, becoming just the third 16-year-old to make the team in Team Canada history, after Wayne Gretzky and Eric Lindros (this feat was also accomplished the same year by defenceman Jay Bouwmeester and Sidney Crosby in 2004). Spezza contributed 2 assists in 7 games as Canada captured a bronze medal. He returned in 2001 for a second consecutive bronze medal, while improving to three goals and three assists. Spezza made it to the gold medal game with Canada in his third and final World Junior appearance in 2002, but lost to Russia to earn the silver.
As a member of the Senators, Spezza was made a reserve for Canada at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, but did not play. He would make his men's debut for Canada at the 2008 World Championships, being named to the team along with Senators linemate Dany Heatley. He earned a silver medal, losing to Russia in the gold medal game. With the Senators failing to make the NHL playoffs the following year, Spezza again represented Canada at the 2009 World Championships. He won another silver medal, losing to Russia in the gold medal game for the second consecutive year. Spezza, along with Finland's Niko Kapanen and fellow Canadian Steven Stamkos, finished the tournament tied for first in goals scored with seven.
Despite his success with the national team in the two previous World Championships, as well as being named a reserve for the 2006 Olympic team, Spezza was left off Canada's initial summer camp roster in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. However, after veteran Joe Sakic announced his retirement and Ryan Getzlaf declared that he required more time to recover from injury, Spezza was invited to fill in one of the vacant spots.
As the 2012-13 NHL lockout continued, Spezza was named to Canada's roster for the 2012 Spengler Cup held in Davos, Switzerland. Spezza joined fellow NHL stars John Tavares, Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Smyth and Matt Duchene in the Canadian line-up, helping Canada defeat host team HC Davos to capture its first Spengler Cup title since 2007.
At the 2015 World Championships, where Canada won the gold medal for the first time since 2007 with a perfect 10-0 record, Spezza was named best forward and a member of the all-star team; he was the tournament's leading scorer.
Spezza participates in numerous activities outside of hockey, especially the "Spelling with Spezza" program. Winners received a poster of Spezza and a pair of tickets to an Ottawa Senators' home game. The program recognizes the importance of spelling. Spezza visited selected classes registered for the program. In his last season with the Senators, over 600 classes in the Ottawa-Gatineau area participated in Spelling with Spezza. He also contributes to Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Spezza wed his girlfriend, Jennifer Snell, in Ottawa on July 25, 2009. The ceremony took place at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica and the reception was held across the street at the National Gallery of Canada. Many of his then-current and past teammates were in attendance, including Ray Emery, Antoine Vermette, Brendan Bell, Chris Phillips and Chris Neil, as well as Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.
Bold indicates led league
|2001-02||Grand Rapids Griffins||AHL||--||--||--||--||--||3||1||0||1||2|
|2019-20||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||58||9||16||25||18||5||0||0||0||9|
|2020-21||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||54||10||20||30||6||7||3||2||5||4|
|Awards and achievements|
| Jack Ferguson Award
| Ottawa Senators first round draft pick
| Les Cunningham Award winner
| John B. Sollenberger Trophy winner
| Ottawa Senators captain