Leafs’ Spezza likes idea of baseball-style series for NHL

Scheduling provides more rest, gives chance to reignite fan bases with rivalry games

Jason Spezza has eight points in 12 games for his hometown Maple Leafs this season. Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Whether the temporary changes to the NHL schedule is well-received by hockey fans isn’t yet known – but for what it’s worth, Jason Spezza is a fan of it. 

The Toronto Maple Leafs forward told reporters after practice on Tuesday that playing the same teams in succession is a trait of the calendar that he’s liked this year. 

But it’s not just the rivalry-induced hockey that comes with the changes to the schedule, it’s the avoidance of unnecessary travel. 

“It’s tough to beat a team three times [in a row]…but two in a row, especially as the road team, I think makes a ton of sense,” Spezza said to reporters via Zoom. “As players, we feel like it gives us more rest.”

In what’s been regularly deemed as a baseball-style schedule during the pandemic, the NHL has adopted a temporary format this season to keep all games geographically-friendly, limiting teams to only play opponents within its division. 

The reference to baseball comes from playing the same team at least twice. 

For the last three weeks, both the NHL and players have had to make adjustments on the fly, to ensure safety remains the No. 1 priority. 

‘I’d be all for it’

In the case of how the schedule looks moving forward, the conversation of making the temporary changes permanent has already begun.

“If the fans like it and the league likes it, then I’d be all for it,” said Spezza. “I’ve been a fan of it. I think the two-game sets create rivalries too and lets you make adjustments against the other team, so I think it adds a great dynamic.”

The questions geared towards Spezza come on the eve of a Toronto-Montreal showdown, where both teams sit at the top of the North Division standings. 

“The whole Canadian division this year is very unique,” said Spezza. With the Habs and us getting off to great starts, I think those are two excited fan bases. There are special rivalries that maybe we haven’t seen enough of these last few years and we have a chance to reignite those fan bases. As players, that’s a great opportunity.”

Through 12 games, Spezza has tallied eight points, including a hat trick effort on Feb. 4 against the Vancouver Canucks. 

The 37-year-old is currently playing in his second season as a member of his hometown team. 

The Maple Leafs will take to the ice in Montreal on Wednesday night for the first time in the condensed season, in what will be a rematch from opening night, when Toronto defeated the rival Canadiens in overtime. 

“We hold them [the Canadiens] in a really high regard,” said Spezza. “They’re just a hard working team, they’re deep and they play the right way. It’s going to be a big challenge for us, so I think it’s a good test for our team.”

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Posted: Feb 9 2021 7:50 pm
Filed under: Hockey Sports Toronto Maple Leafs