Only 47 players earned an invite to Canada’s Olympic orientation camp, which starts Sunday in Calgary.
Three of those players hail from a single Thunder Bay household.
“That’s amazing, when you think about it,” said Jordan Staal, the youngest of three hockey-playing brothers on Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman’s radar.
He’ll be joined in Calgary by older brothers Eric, his teammate and captain with the Carolina Hurricanes, and Marc, a blue-liner with the New York Rangers. Thunder Bay’s Patrick Sharp and Kenora’s Mike Richards will round out the Northwestern Ontario contingent.
“Obviously we’re fortunate enough to all be in the NHL. To be in that elite group and to have the opportunity to maybe be part of the Olympic team is a pretty cool thing. We’re all very excited about it,” said Jordan on Wednesday, fresh off a gruelling summer workout at Fort William First Nation.
The Olympic camp, which won’t involve on-ice activities, should give potential Team Canada players an idea of the type of team Yzerman is trying to build.
With nine holdovers at forward – including oldest brother Eric – from the 2010 gold-medal squad, and rising stars John Tavares, Taylor Hall and Hearst’s Claude Giroux considered locks to make the team, Jordan Staal knows it won’t be an easy task to crack the star-studded line-up.
“Obviously it’s not easy making that team. There are a lot of good players. But hopefully I’ll have a good start to the season and just to be mentioned and be a part of it would be exciting,” he said.
“I’ve just got to play the game I’ve always played. That’s always been being a strong two-way player, that’s a big body that I can move to. I think I’ve just gotta find a niche for myself on that team, whether it’s penalty killing or face offs or what not. It’s just doing all those little things I can do well and right and just go from there.”
He knows the nation will be watching the selection process with great interest, when Yzerman and coach Mike Babcock ultimately narrow the team down to 23 players ahead of the trip to Sochi, Russia.
It’s a bit of a national pastime, he said, smiling.
“It is always fun just to talk about it. There are so many good players that there are always going to be a lot of guys that could be on the team. So it makes it kind of interesting to talk about. I always follow along every once in awhile just to see what everyone is saying,” he said.
“But obviously when the season starts, I’m just going to be focused on my game and worry about (the Olympics) when it comes.”
He’s not the only Staal excited at the opportunity.
Marc, coming off a serious eye injury that all but ended his 2012-13 season, was also on the ice Wednesday ready to get back to business and excited about the chance to start what he hopes is a six-month Olympic journey.
“It would be an incredible honour to represent your country. Anytime you can do that, that’s pretty special. The focus, of course, at the start of the season is to help your team and help them win. If your team is successful, usually you are,” the Rangers defenceman said.
“You just want to play your best and see what happens at Christmas time.”
He’s convinced he can help Team Canada defend its title and thinks there’s a role for him to play.
“With the big ice, you’ve got to be able to move and you’ve got to be able to skate and cover a lot of ice. That’s a big strength of my game, getting around the ice and playing on that big surface. The benefit of being Canadian is they have a large pool of talent to pick from. You’ve just got to play your best and hopefully you fit in.”
Eric Staal was not on the ice Wednesday, still recovering from a knee injury suffered at the World Hockey Championship.
Click here to report a typo or error
You must log in to add comments.
Create a new account
Remember me next time.