Spezza gets Olympic call

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

Fresh off his Napa Valley honeymoon, Jason Spezza received a belated wedding gift this week.

No, it wasn't china from a second cousin, vintage wine from a new neighbour or an envelope of cash from a childhood pal who hasn't paid much attention to what the Senators centre has been up to the last few years.

It was an invitation to Team Canada's summer orientation camp from executive director Steve Yzerman. And this time, Spezza wouldn't be fibbing if he exclaimed it was just what he had always wanted.

Disappointed when he was left off the original list last month, Spezza's July improved dramatically. "The day," he said of his wedding on the 26th to the former Jennifer Snell, "was just a blur."

Spezza was settling back into his daily routine -- and getting used to a foreign object on his ring finger -- when he received a call from Yzerman Monday.

With Ryan Getzlaf having surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle, there would be a spot open at the gathering in Calgary, Aug. 24-27, of a group from which most, if not all, of Canada's men's hockey team at the 2010 Olympic Games would be selected.

Yzerman asked Spezza if he wanted it.

For the second time in 16 days, he blurted an "I do."

"I think I was just excited for the opportunity," Spezza said yesterday on a conference call from Toronto. "I still made it one of my goals, even though I wasn't (originally) invited to the initial camp. I was going to try and prove to them that I belonged on the team, and have a good start to the season. This just gives me a better opportunity. For the staff to get to know me, and for me to be around the systems. Maybe to just help with the comfort level. To be there obviously helps."

Spezza was told he's not going to the camp as just "a fill-in guy."

"They think I have a chance to make the club," he said.

Spezza believed so even after he was snubbed. When it comes to the final selections, heavy emphasis will be put on how the candidates are playing in the first part of the NHL season. Spezza has vowed to get off to a strong start.

"I think anybody who has watched the Olympics or been a part of anything to do with Team Canada, they're unique experiences," said Spezza, who was on the national team "taxi squad" in Torino but emerged as a key player for Canada at the world championship earlier this year. "You get so much confidence out of them. There's so much that goes into it. As a player, it's a great thing to shoot for. It's such an amazing honour."

But it's also not his primary focus. That, he said, is righting the wrong that was the 2008-09 season.

"We didn't have a very good year last year as a team, I didn't have a good year personally," he said. "I have a lot to prove this year. I think that I have to prove to them I can play consistently every night.

"For me, it's not so much proving to Team Canada. I'm really just worried about Ottawa, going into the year, playing well for our team there, and everything else will take care of itself.

"One thing I've probably put into perspective over all of this, is that your team that you play on is the most important. That's all that matters. What goes on in your room, and with your team. Everything else, you can't control. If you play as good as you can for your team, the rest will fall in place."

Spezza will be one of just two Senators in Calgary -- if Dany Heatley is indeed still a Senator in 12 days time.

Spezza says he hadn't talked to his trade-demanding winger since getting the invite, but the two have been in touch "a bunch of times" over the summer. Would he relish the opportunity to skate with Heatley at the Olympics?

"I think when you go to something like that, whoever they put you with they put you with," said Spezza, who hopes the Heatley situation will be resolved, one way or another, by the start of the Senators' training camp. "When they put you with guys you're comfortable with, it's sometimes an advantage. They'll decide who plays with who, and we'll go out and play."

In the meantime, Spezza is anxious to play. And play well.

"It definitely motivated me," he said of not making the original list. "Going in (to the season) whether I made the camp or not, I know what I have to do as a player, I know the steps I want to take. I think I'm trying to do as much as I can this summer to help me get to that next season, but it definitely opens your eyes a little bit and puts a little bit of fire in the belly, when you don't get named to something like that. Maybe the way itís worked out might be a blessing in disguise."


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