’s Olympic dream gained some renewed life today.
The Ottawa Senators centre has been added to the roster for Hockey Canada’s summer orientation camp for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic team. The camp is scheduled to run Aug. 24-27 in Calgary.
Senators forward Dany Heatley was among the 46 players originally invited to the session, which will be held at the Pengrowth Saddledome. Spezza’s addition fills the void created by off-season surgery required by Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks. Another camp invite, Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche, also recently announced his retirement.
But Steve Yzerman, Team Canada's executive director, made it clear when he informed Spezza of the news Monday that the Senators centre wouldn't be coming to Calgary as a "fill-in guy."
"They think I have a chance to make the club," Spezza told reporters on a conference call. "I'm excited to have a chance to be around all the (Olympic team) coaches. It gives me a chance to make a good impression
"Basically, the way the team is going to be picked is going to be baed on how you play the first half of the year. That's the impression I've gotten. That's what (Yzerman) talked to me about the first time around, when I didn't make the (camp roster) and that's what he reiterated this time, that I wasn't coming to the camp just for the sake of coming to the camp."
While Spezza is "excited for the opportunity," his attitude toward the Olympic team remains the same as it was on July 2, when he was left off the original camp roster.
"I still made it one of my goals when I wasn't invited initially to the camp, that I was going to prove to them that I belonged on the team and have a good start to the season," said Spezza, adding he was "definitely motivated" by the original snub. "It definitely opens your eyes a little bit and puts a little fire in the belly when you don't get named to something like that.
"Maybe the way it's worked out, with me not getting named (to the summer camp roster) and now getting a chance to go, will be a blessing in disguise."
For the 26-year-old Spezza, it represents a second chance to wear the red maple leaf on the Olympic stage. Three years ago, he was an alternate player for the Canadian team at the 2006 Turin Games but didn’t see any action.
"Anybody who's watched the Olympics or been a part of Team Canada (knows) they're unique experiences," he said. "You just get so much confidence out of them and so much experience from (being around) other players. There's so much that goes into it and as a player, it's great thing to shoot for because it's such an amazing honour."
Spezza has been a part of several success stories in Canadian colours. He represented the country at the past two world hockey championships, helping the Canada earn silver medals at both tournaments (Russia won the gold each time). He also owns one silver and two bronze medals from previous participation at the world junior hockey championship.
"I still made it one of my goals when I wasn't invited initially to the camp, that I was going to prove to them that I belonged on the team and have a good start to the season. It definitely opens your eyes a little bit and puts a little fire in the belly when you don't get named to something like that. Maybe the way it's worked out, with me not getting named (to the summer camp roster) and now getting a chance to go, will be a blessing in disguise." - Jason Spezza
In May, Spezza was a standout for Team Canada at the 2009 hockey worlds in Switzerland, racking up seven goals – tied for the team lead with Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning – among his 11 points. He had the lone goal for Canada in the gold-medal game, won by Russia 2-1.
"That world championship gave me a lot of confidence," admitted Spezza. "I played a lot and got to be a guy who played in most situations. I took a lot from it and I think I gained a lot of confidence."
Still, Spezza knows it's his early-season play with the Senators that will largely determine his fate in the eyes of Canada's Olympic hockey staff.
"I'm not going to make the team if I don't start the year off well for the Senators, so that's my focus," said Spezza. "We didn't have a very good year (in 2008-09) as a team and I didn't have a good year personally. I have a lot to prove this year. I think I can prove to them that I can play consistently every night.
"But for me, it's not about proving it to Team Canada. I'm really just worried about Ottawa and playing for our team here. One thing I've probably put into perspective out of all of this is your team that you're playing on is most important and that's all that matters. Everything else, you can't control. If you play as well as you can for your team, everything else will fall into place."
Canada plays its 2010 Olympic opener in Vancouver on Feb. 16, facing off against Norway at Canada Hockey Place. The gold-medal game is set for Feb. 28, the final day of the Games.