Maple Leafs’ Jason Spezza announces retirement and joins Toronto front office

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza announced his retirement Sunday after 19 seasons in the NHL.

The 38-year-old player leaves the ice to settle in the front office of the Maple Leafs where he will act as special assistant to general manager Kyle Dubas.

“I think it’s going to be a tough time for me moving forward,” Spezza said via video conference Sunday. “But I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to stay with the organization, to stay away from the club.

“I am deeply invested in what we have done here over the past three years. I believe in the group and I think how I can continue to contribute to the organization and hopefully help the team to go over the top.”

Second overall by Ottawa in the 2001 draft, Spezza spent his first 11 seasons with the Senators before joining the Dallas Stars in 2014 and Toronto in 2019.

In each of his three seasons in Toronto, Spezza saw the hometown Leafs bounce back in their first-round playoff series, a source of regret as he retires.

“It’s an extremely emotional time for me, a difficult time,” he said. “The initial shock and admiration of ending the season so quickly was hard to overcome. I would say it was probably as heartfelt a loss for me as going back and losing in the final. [in 2007 with Ottawa].”

“I don’t think I can ever express in words how much it means to me to try to win the Stanley Cup. There is definitely a huge void in my heart and in my career without being able to earn it.

Although in a different title, Spezza will still have the chance to chase that elusive cut he could never win and finish unfinished business with the Leafs in his new role.

“We felt as an organization, myself, our leadership team, that [he] was someone – because of his passion for hockey, his intelligence, his way of seeing the game and his ability to pass that knowledge on to others – that we would definitely want to have him as a member of our front office” , said Dubas. “And it was our responsibility for everything he did for our organization to make sure we had a plan and a path for him when his days as a player came to an end.”

Spezza had 995 points (363 goals and 632 assists) in 1,248 NHL regular season games, with another 76 points (28 goals and 48 assists) in 97 career playoff games.

The two-time NHL star player (2008, 2012) ranks in the top 100 on the NHL’s all-time list in games played (t-96th), assists (80th) and points (94th) ).

He has 12 goals and 13 assists in 71 games this season, adding another assist in five playoff games.

WATCH l Maple Leafs head into uncertain offseason:

Maple Leafs enter uncertain offseason after another 1st-round outing

CBC News’ Greg Ross attended the Toronto Maple Leafs’ post-season press conference and has more on the decisions the team will have to make this summer.

Eighth captain in Ottawa franchise history, Spezza ranks sixth in games played (686) and second in goals (251), assists (436) and points (687) in his 11 seasons as a senator.

“My time in Ottawa was my best time as a player in my prime and being part of those great Ottawa Senators teams that made it to the finals, knocked on the door and tried to make it through,” Spezza said. “We kept our team together for a long time and that allowed us to grow together.

“Just a lot of special teammates through that and I think as a player that was probably the pinnacle of my career.”

Spezza added veteran expertise to the Leafs during his time in Toronto, often playing a bigger role with the team off the ice than on it.

“It’s hard to describe how Jason Spezza had a lasting and positive impact during his three seasons with the Maple Leafs,” Dubas said. “Jason’s passion for hockey, his desire to continually push himself and his teammates to improve, as well as his ability to build strong bonds with everyone in the organization, have been invaluable.”

He delivered a rousing speech after the first period of Toronto’s Game 5 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round this year, with his team trailing 2-0.

He also showed leadership when he first arrived in 2019 and was knocked out healthy in his first game, despite being one of Toronto’s biggest free agents that season. dead. Instead of complaining publicly, Spezza stayed mum and stayed pro, which speaks to her entire tenure with the Leafs.

Internationally, Spezza has represented Canada at four IIHF World Championships (2008, 2009, 2011, 2015), three World Junior Championships (2000, 2001, 2002) and the Spengler Cup in 2012.

Comments are closed.