Maple Leafs’ Commentary: Spezza Was My Favorite Maple Leafs’ Player

Today, it was reported that Jason Spezza had retired as an NHL player and would be moving into the Toronto Maple Leafs’ front office to work alongside general manager Kyle Dubas. I was happy for Spezza in part because he was my favorite player on the Maple Leafs’ team.

Related: Is it Time for Maple Leafs’ Jason Spezza to Hang Up His Skates?

It’s not that other players aren’t worthy of being my favorite players; it’s just that Spezza seemed to fit so perfectly the values and the ethos that were important to my family when I was growing up. My father, who was a gentle, blue-collar, hard-working man who didn’t take up much space – by that I mean he never complained about life or drew much attention to himself – had three rules that he wanted his children to live by.

My Fathers’ Three Rules for Living 

Rule #1: The World Doesn’t Owe You a Living

Rule #1 meant that, if you wanted to amount to anything in life, you needed to be willing to work hard. Don’t expect things to be given to you. There’s a sort of work karma that says that, if you do the right things to succeed, there’s a good chance you will.

Rule #2: Get Your Education, and No One Can Take That Away from You

Rule #2 meant that, if you availed yourself of the opportunity to become educated, you would be helped on your way towards success – which he meant both financially and personally (as in confidence and self-empowerment). I listened. I was the first person in my immediate family to graduate from university, went on to get my PhD, and spent a long career as an academic, a teacher (still do), a writer, and a researcher – all skills which help me (I believe) be a better hockey writer. 

Rule #3: Don’t Do Anything to Embarrass Your Mother

I was taught that there was a way our family should behave, and that was to consider the impact of what we did on how it would bounce back to reflect on how our family was viewed from the outside. We were taught to consider how an action would be seen in the big picture, and not to be lured into the momentary.

 Jason Spezza Personified My Father’s Rules

Jason Spezza seems to have been reared by a good friend of my father’s. He lived out these same rules well in his three-year stint with the Maple Leafs. In his statement upon announcing his retirement, he said:

Toronto Maple Leafs Jason Spezza
Toronto Maple Leafs Jason Spezza (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov)

“Hockey has been my life’s work and to be able to come home to Toronto and bookend my playing career where it started was incredible. To the fans – in Ottawa, Dallas, Toronto and across the league – your impact on the game is immeasurable. I’ll never be able to replicate that feeling of stepping onto the ice to the roar of the crowd, but it is something I’ll always remember. Thank you.

Related: Senators History: Revisiting Jason Spezza’s First Career Hat Trick

“Looking forward, I’m very grateful to the Leafs for the amazing opportunity to transition into this new role. It enables me to continue to follow my passion; learn and live new experiences within the game I love.

“Lastly, none of this happens without the unwavering support of my parents, siblings, wife, and kids. You have always been my cornerstone.”

Jason Spezza Toronto Maple Leafs
Jason Spezza, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Spezza never believed the world owed him a living: he earned the respect of his peers and the hockey community. Obviously, he worked hard to achieve success, although he eventually fell short of the Stanley Cup, he kept trying. His attention to fitness and extra work is legendary. 

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He got his education. His 19 seasons as an NHL player was education enough so that, without any formal management experience, he’s moving to management. Who wants to bet that he won’t become a staple in the Maple Leafs’ management system.

He didn’t embarrass his family, his teammates, or his organization(s). Legendary among the acts were his one-on-one time paying it forward by mentoring young Maple Leafs’ players. He also put his money where his mouth was, so to speak, 

Sadly, Spezza’s “Moving On Up”

One has to guess that Spezza is one part sad about moving up to management. That’s because he has to stop being a player. In announcing the move, Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas noted:

“It is difficult to describe just how much of a lasting and positive impact that Jason made in his three seasons with the Leafs. Jason’s passion for the game of hockey, his desire to continuously push himself and his teammates to improve, as well as his capacity to make strong connections with all members of the organization, have been invaluable.”

Related: Maple Leafs Sign Spezza

Dubas added, “Though today marks the end of his tenure with us as a player, it is a pleasure to have him join our front office to impart all that he has to offer.” (from “Jason Spezza announces retirement to join Maple Leafs front office,” Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun, 29/05/2022)

Who Are Your Own Favorite Maple Leafs’ Players?

On two or three occasions, I’ve used the discussion section of posts as a way to collect and create posts based upon readers’ insights. As I’ve noted, and I hope I say it often enough, I appreciate the contributions readers make to the posts. 

Readers correct my errors (gently usually) and add insights to the work that I do preparing for the posts I write. I have tried to be transparent with the fact that, although I was a fan, I was not nor had ever thought to become a hockey writer. There’s much I don’t know. Although I work hard to present intelligent commentary, I know many of my readers are more knowledgeable than I am about the Maple Leafs. 

Toronto Maple Leafs Jason Spezza
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jeffrey T. Barnes)

I also see the posts I write as beginnings to conversations and think of them as a sort of “Cheers” metaphor, where everybody knows your name. I especially appreciate the regular commenters.

Here’s your task, if you’ll accept it. You’ve read about my (now past) favorite Maple Leafs’ player and some of the reasons why I came to appreciate and like Spezza so much. 

Who is your favorite Maple Leafs’ player? Why is he your favorite?

The Hockey Writers has given me permission to collect your contributions into a post to share with other readers. I invite you to take some time to contribute a sentence or two in the Conversation Section about who your favorite Maple Leafs’ player is and why?

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Marner, Spezza & Giordano

I look forward to pulling some of these contributions together for a post on the topic. Thanks in advance for your contributions.