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Olympic snub motivating Senators captain Spezza

by Dan Rosen /

Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean and general manager Bryan Murray ought to send thank-you cards to Steve Yzerman and Mike Babcock for leaving Jason Spezza off the invitation list for Canada's Olympic orientation camp last month.

For as much as the perceived snub left Spezza angry and upset, emotions he admittedly still feels today, it also gave him the exact kick-in-the-pants type of drive that should mean only good things for the Senators this season.

"It's great motivation," Spezza told "I didn't play for most of last year, so coming into the year I feel like I have a lot to prove just to get back to where my game was before I got hurt. I was pretty motivated coming into the season just on that alone, but not being included in the Olympic camp definitely gives me an extra chip on my shoulder.

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"Any time as a player you can find extra motivation and look to prove people wrong it's a good thing."

Spezza missed 43 games last season after having surgery to repair a herniated disc that was touching a nerve in his back. He returned in time to play in Ottawa's final three Stanley Cup Playoff games, but the injury was the reason he was not invited to the Olympic camp.

"They called me before they released the [invitation] list and told me I wasn't going to be on it. It was a quick conversation," Spezza said. "They told me I didn't play last year, that I'm still on the radar for them but I'm not going to be attending the camp. I told them I am disappointed and that was pretty much the end of the conversation."

But not the end of the story, by any means.

Spezza's goal now is to play so well that Yzerman and Babcock simply can't leave him off the roster when it is named in late December. It would be the ultimate told-you-so for Spezza and arguably the best thing that could happen to the Senators early in the season.

Spezza has a reasonable chance to do it, too, because he's healthy now after going through the most disappointing season of his professional career.

"It [stinks] watching," Spezza said. "It was not a fun year for myself [or] my wife. When I'm around and in pain, going through that, it's not fun for anyone."

Spezza said he was in so much pain before the surgery that he couldn't sleep or sit in a chair for more than five minutes. The pain from the disc touching the nerve radiated down his legs.

"It was unbearable," he said. "It was probably the worst pain I could imagine. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."

After having the surgery, he wasn't allowed to bend at the hip for six weeks.

"I couldn't pick my kids up for, I think, six or eight weeks, so that was tough," said Spezza, who has two daughters, ages 3 and 1.

Spezza is 100 percent now and said he's skated more this offseason than he ever has before. He still feels the sting of the Olympic camp rejection, and he's planning to do something about it once the puck drops this season.

"It's just a matter of proving it to [Yzerman and Babcock]," Spezza said. "You can't pick those teams; all you can do is play well."


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