‘Living legend of hockey’ Spezza settles for Switzerland

‘Living legend of hockey’ Spezza settles for Switzerland
Jason Spezza #19 of the Ottawa Senators shoots the puck against the Winnipeg Jets during an NHL game at Scotiabank Place on January 16, 2012 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

Jason Anthony Rocco Spezza, as he is referred to on the website of his new team, is now big news in Rapperswil, Switzerland.

Spezza, the Ottawa Senators star centre, will be spending his lockout time in the town of 26,000, just outside Zurich, playing for the Rapperswil-Jona Lakers.

Something may be lost in the translation from the German, but the club website refers to Spezza as “a living legend of hockey” and that his arrival represents a “hockey dream” for the franchise.

“It’s something I thought long and hard about,” Spezza told Sportsnet’s Hockey Central on Wednesday. “I’ve been talking to the team for awhile. I want to keep playing.”

Spezza is due to join the team on Sept. 27, but he’s keeping his fingers crossed that his stay in Switzerland will be short, believing that the NHL and the players’ association can possibly reach an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement soon.

“I still hold out hope that maybe something can get done,” he said. “I don’t know, maybe I’m just an optimist.”

For the time being, though, Spezza is satisfied that playing in Rapperswil will be the “right spot” for himself, his wife and daughters Sophia and Nicola.

“I had thrown out some feelers, talked to teams and I’m happy to get something done. If the lockout gets settled, I will be back home in Ottawa as soon as I can.”

Spezza, who scored 34 goals and 50 assists in 80 games last season, is hoping that by playing in Switzerland he will “maybe get a jump” on his NHL peers if and when the 2012-13 NHL season starts. Rick Nash of the New York Rangers and Joe Thornton and Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks are also among the players who have signed on with Swiss clubs for the duration of the lockout.

Spezza acknowledged that he would rather be worrying about the testing at the start of an NHL training camp than be flying overseas to play hockey.

SILVER LINING

The Senators’ locked out players chose not to practice on Wednesday, but Jakob Silfverberg could join the crew in the next few days. Silfverberg, the Swedish Elite League MVP who played in Games 6 and 7 of the Senators’ first round playoff series against the New York Rangers in the spring, sent word Wednesday, via twitter, that he was leaving home for new adventures in North America.

Without a lockout, Silfverberg would have been given every chance to earn a spot on the Senators top two lines. With the lockout in effect, however, Silfverberg will be on his way south to Binghamton when the AHL squad opens its training camp Sept. 27.

BENOIT SET FOR BIG PAYDAY

While many middle-of-the-road NHL players will be looking for work — and trying to secure a salary somewhere in the hockey world — once the regular season begins, defenceman Andre Benoit is sitting pretty. Benoit, the former Binghamton standout who played last season in the KHL, signed a two-way contract in the summer that will pay him $300,000 to play in the AHL this season. For comparison’s sake, Mika Zibanejad will earn $70,000, while Jared Cowen and Silfverberg have salaries paying them $67,500 to play in the minors.

The B-Sens training camp roster, released Wednesday, includes 36 players. Others with NHL experience include goaltenders Robin Lehner and Nathan Lawson, defencemen Mark Borowiecki, Patrick Wiercioch and Tyler Eckford, centres Stephane Da Costa and Mike Hoffman, along with wingers Mark Stone, Andre Petersson and Hugh Jessiman.

CANADIENS GOLF TOURNAMENT GOES ON

While the Senators opted to cancel their annual pre-season charity golf tournament, originally scheduled for Wednesday, the Montreal Canadiens didn’t let the lockout stop their golfing fundraiser. Canadiens’ alumni substituted for current players at their charity tournament Wednesday.

kwarren@ottawasenators.com
Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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