Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jason Spezza: Four Autographed Cards

I had a post about Jason Spezza over a year ago, one that was about I card I found ridiculous - and it wasn't the player's fault at all, just the card manufacturer's.

This time around, I sent him a fan letter and 4 cards I like, care of the Sens, on September 30th (incidentally, the same day I sent the Miikka Kiprusoff cards - a good day!) and received all back on October 19th, a bit more than 2 weeks later, signed in beautiful blue sharpie, with his jersey number (19) at the tail end. And what an interesting signature! A great return from a great player.

When the Ottawa Senators were eliminated from the playoffs last year, general manager Brian Murray clumsily tried to defend Spezza from ''critics'' (whether those were fans or journalists wasn't clear) who thought he wasn't a ''complete enough'' player like Sidney Crosby by saying something along the lines of ''Spezza being drafted second overall in 2001 put unfair expectations on him''.

Are you kidding me? He should have just ignored it or told ''them'' off.

We're talking about a guy who holds the team record for most assists in a single season (71), has two 90-plus seasons and an 87-point season (in as few as 67 games, no less!) under his belt, regularly scores over 30 goals a year and has produced at over a point-per-game pace in the NHL.

In the AHL, he was named league MVP and won the Les Cunningham Award for doing so, as well as the John B. Sollenberger trophy as the league's leading scorer.

And as far as team stats go, not only was he a part of the Sens team that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006-07 (and the Conference Finals in 2002-03), he has two silver medals at World Championships (2008 and 2009) a World Juniors silver (2002) and two World Juniors bronze medals (2000 and 2001). He is also only the third Canadian junior player to make Team Canada at age 16 - after Wayne Gretzky and Eric Lindros.

We're talking about a rare talent here. What people should do is let him play his game, and watch the points pile up. He's a first liner - a star player; his job is to feed goal scorers, not check the opposing team's best line. When he's on the ice, his team, coaches, and fans should concentrate on what makes you win hockey games - scoring more goals than the opponent - rather than merely stopping the opponent from making plays. You can't get milk out of a stallion, and chances are you'll be disappointed if you try. And you'll end up with something else altogether.

Now back to the cards. As for the Kiprusoff cards, I tried to send cards each with different jerseys. The card on the top-left, from Topps' 2002-03 Topps Total set (card #411), sees his wearing the Sens' red jersey that we've grown accustomed to. However, notice he's wearing a #44 jersey (despite his signing his #19 on it!), probably a number they gave him during training camp that was no longer available when he actually made the team. It's his rookie card in the set, and I bought the packs at a dollar store I happened to pass by, totally by chance, because I'd been out of the ''purchasing hockey cards'' game for almost a decade at this point and wouldn't have known where to get them.

The card on the top right sees him wearing the 'old' white jersey, the one in which the team's logo faces sideways. It's from Fleer's 2005-06 Fleer Ultra set (card #134).

The card on the bottom left sees him wearing the same red jersey from the first card, but this time with his current jersey number, and is from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Victory set (card #135), while the one on the bottom right sees him wearing the Sens' third jersey, the black one that says SENS in front, one of the latest monstrosities from the Reebok Edge line; the card actually has the jersey in the best angle: red, white and black are three colours that fit well together, it's just an aberration to have the team's nickname on the players' chests rather than a logo, in my opinion. It's from the brand-new 2010-11 Victory set, a beautiful design that brings the player to the foreground, makes the background almost disappear and incorporates a giant V in the team's colours behind the player, with a white contour.

All in all, a great, fast return from one of the game's elite playmakers and a terrific humanitarian who helps teach kids in the Ottawa-Gatineau region the importance of school, language and spelling through his ''Spelling With Spezza'' program, which 600 classes participate in - each of which sees their top speller receive a poster of Spezza and a pair of tickets to a Sens game.

If Sens fans don't want him and would prefer a checker, the Montréal Canadiens have a good 2-way-playing Cup winner who makes just about the same salary who might be available...

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