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The Dallas Stars had a major built-in advantage when they tried to – and successfully – acquired center Jason Spezza last summer.
Essentially the Stars played in the same city as the Dallas Cowboys, and all other suitors didn’t.
“I’ve been a Cowboys fan definitely since I was a teenager, and growing up in Canada at the time before Sunday ticket and Red Zone, you got Cowboys games on TV because they were good and you got cable,” Spezza said. “That’s kind of how I became a fan. No other rhyme or reason. Coming to Dallas has been a bonus.”
Just simply a bonus? Empirical evidence shows otherwise.
Spezza has been to two Cowboys games since his arrival in Dallas, anonymously winding his way through crowds. He’ll deny that he pushed for a trade to Dallas because of the Cowboys, the Rangers and the Mavericks but his case is not super compelling when he gushes about having the other three major North American sports in his new home city.
“I am a big sports nut. I plan on making it out to some Mavs games. When the Rangers get going I plan on going out there,” Spezza said. “I think that helps your time away from the rink to have some distractions to do that. I’m definitely enjoying the fact that we have all the major sports teams.”
Joking aside, the Cowboys were an ancillary reason for Spezza, who had a no-trade clause, coming to Dallas in a summer deal from Ottawa for Alex Chiasson, Alex Guptill, Nicholas Paul and a second round pick in 2015. The slick passing former Senators captain saw a team with players who could uncork big booming shots, and a management and coaching team that brought stability.
“When I was getting traded this was one of the places I identified as being a great fit for me,” Spezza said. “Now that I’m here I feel like I can help the lineup quite a bit and I think the lineup can help me.”
Though Spezza has mostly played on the second line, the Stars have players like captain Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin who can rip his passes on Dallas’ first line power play. And if that doesn’t work, the Stars have touted Spezza’s ability to shoot the puck if he sees an opening.
“His shot is one of the … it’s probably one of the best in the league,” coach Lindy Ruff said.
Whether Spezza is indeed the missing piece in Dallas remains to be seen. The Stars are currently in the midst of a six-game winless streak.
Spezza has looked good with 12 points in 13 games so far, but he’s also in a contract year, and it’s unclear whether he will stay in Dallas or not. He and the Stars haven’t come up with a new deal yet.
“There’s some mutual interest. When I Came here, I knew it was a good fit,” Spezza said. “There will be a time and a place to start talking. For me it’s most important to get in, get settled, get comfortable with the whole surrounding and now that I have a chance to do that. We’re trying to get out of this funk we’re in.”
While he’s on the Stars, he will probably continue to draw the wrath of the teams he shunned to go to Dallas in the offseason. Senators general manager Bryan Murray outed Spezza as nixing a potential deal to Nashville. And when the Stars went to Bridgestone Arena earlier this year, Spezza was booed like a WWE villain. He has yet to play in Ottawa, but it’s probably likely the likeable former Senators captain will get the same reaction.
“It was something I thought about and was a big move in my career, and when you make a choice like that you know there’s going to be some negativity surrounding it.” Spezza said. “I knew there would be some negativity around it. Not everyone is going to agree with your decisions. But in my heart I thought it was the right choice.”
But then again, the Tennessee Titans – Nashville’s NFL team – are having a horrible year. The city of Ottawa only has the CFL. And while the Cowboys’ Super Bowl chances continue to hinge on Tony Romo’s bad back and wacko Owner/GM Jerry Jones, at least Spezza can walk into games, sit in the crowd with former Ottawa teammate Ales Hemsky, go unnoticed, then go home to his three kids.
He was even slightly late for his phone interview with us because he was stuck in a parent-teacher conference.
“We went like normal fans and sat with everybody else with normal people. People here are really passionate about football and we love to see it,” said Hemsky, who is also playing his first year out of Canada. “It’s healthy – having different sports and just a chance to enjoy them. Nobody to talk to you about hockey.”
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