OTTAWA -- There seem to be two sets of emotions that hit a hockey player when he finds out his team is hosting an All-Star Game. Jason Spezza spoke about them Wednesday after the Ottawa Senators announced they'll be hosting the event in 2012.
"My initial thought was it'd be great to play in an All-Star Game in your home city," Spezza said. "But it's a couple years away, and it's not something you're focusing on too much."
Not to mention the fact that having the All-Star Game take place in your backyard doesn't guarantee you an invitation to the superstar-laden event.
"That would be obviously unbelievable," Alfredsson said about playing in front of a sellout crowd at Scotiabank Place the weekend of Jan. 28, 2012, "but an All-Star Game isn't something you just get free access to. You've got to earn it to get there."
There's nothing like a little added motivation for two players who might need the added incentive when the 2011-12 season starts.
Spezza, now 27, played in his first and only All-Star Game in 2008, during his most-productive NHL season. He had a career-high 92 points (34 goals, 58 assists) and appeared to establish himself as one of the game's elite players.
However, his numbers have declined in each of the past two seasons. He had a very respectable 32 goals and 41 assists in 2008-09, but managed only 23 goals and 34 assists in 60 games last season, as he missed 20 games at midseason with a torn MCL. He's been productive when healthy, but not enough to garner an All-Star appearance. Perhaps an All-Star Game in Ottawa on the horizon is just what he needs to rediscover his All-Star form.
"I think you always want to play well enough to earn something like this," Spezza said, "but it definitely makes it more special if you can play in an All-Star Game in your home city. It's always a special thing for players to get recognized that way. I think to have it in Ottawa is great for the city and it gives you motivation as a player to play in your hometown, too."
Alfredsson, who was drafted by the Senators in 1994 and hasn't known any other franchise, also hasn't been back to an All-Star Game since 2008. But the five-time All-Star likely will be battling the forces of aging more than anything.
The potential Hall of Famer has averaged nearly a point per game the past two seasons, but he will be 39 when the 2012 All-Star Game rolls around. Only 10 players 39 or older have played in an All-Star Game, with Mark Messier having pulled it off most recently when he appeared in the 2004 All-Star Game as a 43-year-old member of the Vancouver Canucks.
"Anybody would like to play the All-Star Game in their home city," Alfredsson said. "Unfortunately we don't get a free card to it, but I'm sure everybody will make an effort to try to be part of it. It's just going to be an unbelievable weekend. It's definitely something to look forward to."
If the numbers of Spezza and Alfredsson aren't cutting it at the halfway point of the 2011-12 season, there's always the fan vote. Recent years have seen passionate fans mobilize to try and stuff the ballot box to get their favorite players added to the team.
Spezza and Alfredsson are hoping they can be that guy in 2012, even if it's still way off in the distance.
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