OTTAWA – Jason Spezza stole the show Wednesday at the Ottawa Senators’ annual skills competition.
The veteran forward won both the hardest shot and accuracy competitions less than a day after the club’s disappointing 6-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
Spezza blasted a shot at 103.8 miles per hour, edging rookie defenceman Jared Cowen, who was second at 102 m.p.h. They were the lone two players to crack the 100-mile barrier.
Mike Fisher, now with the Nashville Predators, holds the Senators record at 105 m.p.h.
“I thought (teammate Matt Carkner) would beat me,” said Spezza. “I knew I could get over 100, but I just didn’t know how hard.
“I was worried about Carks and Jared (Cowen) being a big guy with a big stick I knew could hit it pretty hard.”
Spezza was also the only Senator to go 4-for-4 in the accuracy competition. Nick Foligno came close, going 4-for-5.
“I’ve been 4-for-5 or 4-for-6 so it was pretty nice to go 4-for-4,” said Spezza. “You’ve got to take your time to make sure you hit them.”
Spezza is looking to earn a spot at this year’s all-star game, which will be held in Ottawa. He’s hopeful Wednesday’s performance will earn him a few more fan votes.
“The support from the fans has been great so far,” said Spezza. “It would be a huge honour to get voted in, but it’s out of our hands.
“But whether you get voted in or not doesn’t matter, the fans have just been great.”
Usually players treat skills competitions as fun events that provide them a chance to interact personally with fans. But Spezza admitted to feeling some pressure to perform.
“You always want to put your best foot forward and you really just don’t want to embarrass yourself,” he said.
Colin Greening set a team record in the skating event with a time of 13.434 seconds, breaking the mark of 13.665 second he set last year. Erik Karlsson finished second in 13.688 seconds while newly acquired Kyle Turris was third in 13.735.
Greening, a veteran of just 61 career NHL games, was a little worried about facing proven speedsters Milan Michalek and Karlsson and was only hoping to be competitive.
“I was hoping they wouldn’t break my record so I’m pretty happy with how things went,” said Greening. “I wasn’t sure I was going to beat last year, but I feel like I’m a pretty good skater and that’s one of my best attributes.
“But to get a score like a 13.4 was a bit surprising.”
Spezza feels the skills competition is a great event for fans but said it’s also fun for players because many bring their own kids to watch the competition in person.
“It’s pretty rare to be able to bring the kids as it’s usually all business around here,” said Spezza, who had his one-year-old daughter Sophia on hand. “It’s nice to have everyone interacting and see the kids.”