When Jason Spezza was fourteen years old, he was often compared to Mario Lemieux because of his style of play. That’s a lot of pressure for a young man, but he bore it well and became a stand-out pro and future Hall-of-Famer in his own right. He played for the Ottawa Senators for 11 years (where he rose to captain) and has been at Dallas Stars as alternate captain since 2014-15.
Inside Hockey: Long before you reached Dallas you have taken on leadership roles. What is it like to help mold the younger players into pros?
Jason Spezza: It is something that I take pride in. When I came into the league, I was fortunate to have guys like Bryan Smolinski, Daniel Alfredsson, Wade Redden, and Chris Phillips who really helped me. Now I can provide the same guidance for our young players.
IH: You have established a Jason Spezza Scholarship Fund for the Dallas Stars Metro Hockey League with Texas Land and Cattle. What was it about the Metro Hockey League that impressed you so much that you wanted to help in such a big way?
Spezza: Hockey has given me so much over the years. It still brings joy to my day. Hockey is relatively new to the South and I thought it would be a good idea to try to expand the game in Texas by helping kids play. For some, it is introducing them to the sport. For others, it is helping them continue their playing because of financial restrictions. When Texas Land and Cattle hopped on board, they helped me a ton and we could create a large fund.
IH: The Dallas Stars Foundation also helped in getting your fund started. How important is it for you to play for such a civic-minded organization?
Spezza: I think we are very fortunate to be in the position we are in – to be hockey players. I think the Dallas Stars shares the same feeling. To be affiliated with an organization that wants to help in the community and to help kids, in particular, makes you proud to play for the team.
IH: You carry yourself with great dignity. Is this something you picked up by following Mario Lemieux?
Spezza: A little bit. Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux are the two guys I looked up to growing up and they both carried themselves with a lot of class. I’ve tried to emulate them in my career.
IH: You once said that your dream dinner would include Michael Jordan, Mario Lemieux, and Muhammad Ali. What do these icons mean to you personally?
Spezza: I think this shows my love of sport. Those guys were the greatest at what they’ve done. I’m really interested in reading about different sports and walks of life. I admire Michael Jordan for his passion. I admire Muhammad Ali for the confidence that he brought not just to his sport but everything that he did.
IH: You were once a child model. Any fond memories return during the shoot for the Stars new calendar?
Spezza: [laughs] No, but lots of jokes. I hear about it all the time and those pictures surface every few years.
IH: How do you find ways to relax during the season?
Spezza: I have four little girls at home, my day just gets started when I come in the door. They help me leave the game at the rink. We have nothing but fun at the house. We really enjoyed our Christmas, my girls are at the prime age (almost 7, almost 5, almost 3 and a 1 year old).
IH: What shows or movies have you enjoyed lately?
Spezza: I just watched HBO’s Westworld, which was must-watch TV for me. All the stuff about robots and artificial intelligence. It gets you thinking. What stage are we in?
IH: Yes, we have to be much nicer to the things we create.
Spezza: Yes, exactly.
IH: How did you meet your wife Jennifer?
Spezza: We met in Ottawa. She was a college student working in a restaurant and we started talking and we are still together and it’s been great.
IH: That’s a long date.
Spezza: [laughs] Yeah, I tell everybody that was a pricey dinner.
IH: Your youngest daughter was born here in Dallas. How well has your family made the adjustment to living in Texas?
Spezza: It’s been smooth. I think Texans are very friendly and very family oriented. The first year, we rented a house and we didn’t feel settled. Now that we’ve bought a place, we feel more at home. The girls are going to local schools and you get to know your neighbors. We have really enjoyed our time here. I think the way of Texans is to have big families and enjoy the nice weather outdoors which fits our lifestyle.
IH: Which of your old Ottawa teammates had the greatest influence over you as a player? And which one had the greatest influence over you as a man?
Spezza: Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Phillips were two guys who I could always look to for advice as a young player. I would seek them out on plane rides when I needed to talk things through. They are both mild mannered and humble guys and were always there for me. When I played with Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson, we had a pretty good line and I would say they helped me more than anyone else on the ice.