July 20, 2010
Spezza in it for long haulSenators star convincing when he says only place he wants to be is Ottawa
By DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency
It didn't really matter how Jason Spezza played on the course Tuesday.
He was strong in the Grey-Hawk Golf Club parking lot.
Moments before teeing it up at his fifth annual Celebrity Classic, Spezza addressed members of the local media, who showed up to hear his first words since Senators GM Bryan Murray stated that, at a year-end meeting, his No. 1 centre and highest-paid player informed him he wouldn't "object" to being traded.
What Spezza said outside the front door of the 36-hole Cumberland track, though predictable, was also convincing.
In a nutshell, he doesn't want to go anywhere. And it appears as though he means it.
Taking control of the situation by making his statement before hearing questions, Spezza spoke of the frustration he felt over the team's first-round failure in the playoffs and the home-town fans booing him. But, he pointed out, he never asked to be moved and, with the no-trade clause kicking in July 1 on a contract that still has five years and will pay him $35 million US, it looks like he's ready to dig his feet in.
"I signed here for seven years because I like the city, I like the team, I like my teammates. There's always going to be bumps in the road, but I think it's important to have communication between players and management, and that's all we had," said Spezza, who showed signs of emotion on his face and in his voice. "It just became a little more public and it became a little bigger deal than it should have been.
"By no means was it a 'get me out of town, I can't play here anymore.' I talked to Bryan and said that if you think it's best to move me ... and there's all this chatter, it seems like the last couple of years ... I'm watching the draft on TV and my name's getting mentioned ... I want to be a guy that's going to be in a spot where I'm going to be there for a long time and we can build around.
"If he wanted to move me, then he could have moved me. Now going forward, it's not in the foreseeable future. I enjoy being here."
Spezza expressed regret at how the situation was handled.
"Me and Bryan have talked since then and probably our conversation should have stayed between us," he said. "We probably wouldn't even be talking here today. But it happened and it's a reality.
"For me, I didn't feel I had to respond to anything. It was just a whole lot of hearsay that was going on. I didn't feel I wanted to fuel it anymore. I had private conversations with Bryan, I talked to (coach) Corey (Clouston) and we were all clear on what was going on, but I didn't feel it was something I needed to address any further.
"Going forward, I've got no problem talking about it today, but I've got a no-trade now, I'm here, I'm committed and I don't plan on talking about this again," added Spezza. "This isn't an ongoing thing. I'm focused on winning here now, I'm focused on becoming a better player.
"It's tough when you lose in the playoffs. A lot of emotions happen and there's a lot said in meetings. I think things just got blown out of proportion a little bit."
Still, there have to be those outside Ottawa wondering what's going on with the Senators. It was only last summer that Dany Heatley demanded his way out of the nation's capital. That the possibility of trading Spezza was mentioned less than a year later had to raise some eyebrows.
"Spezz is a franchise guy here. He wants to be here," said Senators centre Chris Kelly. "Obviously, everyone was upset at us losing. That's just human nature. By no means as a teammate of Spezz do I think he does not want to be here and does not love the city of Ottawa.
"You hear the comparisons to the Dany situation ... it's not even close to the Dany situation. Obviously, Dany wanted to go play somewhere else. That was his choice. But by no means does Jason want to go play someplace else. He wants to play here and win here."
Goalie Pascal Leclaire said all the Spezza talk was never a distraction to the team.
"I've talked to Jason a couple of times this summer, and he seems happy here," he said. "For the guys in the locker room, there's no issues with Jason. He's a great guy, a great player, a great teammate. We're not going to get involved in that. I think a lot of times it's blown out of proportion. People make bigger stories than exactly what it is. Hopefully, he stays with us. I think it looks that way anyway."