CALGARY – Steve Mason is envious of the other goalies at Canada’s Olympic orientation hockey camp.
The 21-year-old Columbus Blue Jackets netminder looks around and sees five Stanley Cups, four Vezina Trophies, a Conn Smythe Trophy, two world championships and an Olympic gold medal between them.
None of them are his.
“Not intimidated. More jealous,” the Oakville, Ont., native said. “There’s a few Stanley Cups in my position here and hopefully one day I’ll have my own ring.”
New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo, Carolina’s Cam Ward, Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury and Mason are considered the main candidates to fill Canada’s net at the 2010 Olympics, based on their invitations to this camp.
Detroit’s Chris Osgood, a three-time Stanley Cup winner, was a controversial exclusion from the invitees.
The four-day camp concludes Thursday with an intrasquad scrimmage at the Pengrowth Saddledome before the 45 players players depart. Over 16,000 tickets have been sold for the scrimmage, according to Hockey Canada. Fewer than 2,500 tickets remain.
The Canadian men’s team will take three goaltenders to the Olympics in Vancouver. Brodeur and Luongo are front-runners for two of those berths.
Brodeur is Canada’s undisputed king of the net with three Olympics, including a gold medal in 2002, and three Stanley Cup titles on his resume. The 37-year-old from Montreal still feels like he has to win starter’s job every time.
“Every time you participate in a camp like this with talent like that, it’s kind of hard to have the feeling that you have the job,” Brodeur said. “Everybody is there to take it away.
“I’ve played for this team for the last three Olympics. My experience will kick in, but it’s all about staying afloat in that situation and making sure I don’t cheat anything and get myself as ready as possible when the time comes for that.”
If Brodeur is No. 1, then Luongo is No. 1-a with his two world titles and experience backing up Brodeur at the 2006 Olympics.
“Nothing is pre-determined,” Luongo declared. “Just because Marty and I were there last Olympics doesn’t mean we automatically qualify to play.
“There were a few guys left off the roster from the last Olympics who were not even here. You can’t take anything for granted.”
Brodeur and Luongo received celebrity treatment at the Calgary airport when they arrived. People called their names and there was a sea of outstretched hands for autographs. The arrivals of Ward, Fleury and Mason were more understated, although Fleury attracted attention as a recent Stanley Cup winner.
The goalies will have the first half of the NHL’s regular season to play themselves on or off the Olympic team, so head coach Mike Babcock sees no point in stating his favourites in August.
“We’re not going to figure that out at this camp,” he said. “What you like is for us to tell you is on the team. We don’t know who is on the team.
“We’re just going to watch them. They’ll decide.”
The competition for jobs in goal will spice up head-to-head meetings between the goalies during the next NHL season. Babcock has a simple formula for them to raise their Olympic stock.
“In goal, every night, you look down the rink and you see the guy across from you, outplay him every night and pretty soon you’re on top of your game and you’re at the top of the league.”
Here’s a quick look at the five goalies at camp:
-Martin Brodeur: Most experienced and decorated of Canada’s stable of goalies. Staying healthy will be paramount. He missed 50 games with an elbow injury and subsequent surgery last season.
-Roberto Luongo: The 30-year-old from Montreal lacks NHL playoff success of Brodeur, Ward and now Fleury, but established his international cred by leading Canada to back-to-back world titles in 2003 and 2004. He was also the hero of Canada’s overtime win in the 2004 World Cup semifinal.
-Marc-Andre Fleury: Arguably the hottest of Canada’s goalies after backstopping young Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup this year. The 24-year-old from Sorel, Que., would love to face Pens teammate Evgeni Malkin, who will play for Russia in Vancouver.
“The main goal in hockey is to win a Stanley Cup and that helped me a lot making this camp,” Fleury said. “I need to have a good start of the season this year and go from there.”
-Cam Ward: Short on international experience compared to Brodeur and Luongo, but Ward was a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2006. The 25-year-old from Sherwood Park. Alta., sat out first night of camp with tightness in his back.
-Steve Mason: The winner of the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie, he backstopped the Blue Jackets to their first post-season appearance. Mason was also a standout for Canada in winning the 2008 world junior championship.
Brodeur is Mason’s childhood hero. The young goalie is starstruck around him at camp.
“I’ve introduced myself, but I’ll wait until the end of camp to pop the autograph question,” Mason said.