CALGARY – One Staal brother is a good bet to be on Canada’s Olympic men’s hockey team next February. Two others are in the running.
Eric, Marc and Jordan Staal from Thunder Bay, Ont., were among the 47 players invited to the Olympic orientation camp in Calgary that concludes Wednesday.
“It’s pretty surreal that you’re looking out with this group of players and two of them are your brothers,” Marc observed.
The siblings wore the first initial of their first names along with the Staal surname on the back of their camp T-shirts. The prospect of the same on Canadian jerseys at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, is a tantalizing thought for them.
“I think it would be pretty special not only for our family, but our hometown of Thunder Bay in general,” Eric said. “For all three of us to have the opportunity, it’s pretty cool and something we’re all striving to do.”
Eric won men’s hockey gold at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Barring any setbacks from a knee injury suffered at the world championship in May, that experience should give the 28-year-old Carolina Hurricanes captain leverage to wear the Maple Leaf again.
Marc is a 26-year-old New York Rangers defenceman. Jordan, 24, is Eric’s teammate with the Hurricanes.
A fourth Staal brother, Jared, is Hurricanes property and played on a line with Eric and Jordan in a game last season. The 23-year-old forward has yet to become a full-time NHL player.
Jordan likes his oldest brother’s chances of becoming an Olympian again, but handicapping a Staal trio in Sochi is difficult.
“I don’t know if I’d throw a percentage on there, but I think there’s one of us who is looking pretty solid,” Jordan observed. “I think the other two are going to have to do some work and just have a great start to the season.”
The fact the three brothers were invited to orientation camp works in their favour for Olympic inclusion, according to Eric.
“We’ve obviously had a chance to be here at this camp and see the way we’re going to play and how the team is expected to perform,” he said. “I think a lot has to do with how the next couple of months go and where we’re at individually here in December.
“Each one of us has done a lot in our careers so far to give us a chance to be there and we’ll see what happens.”
Six-foot-four forwards Eric and Jordan have the skating and puck skills to excel on the big ice. They were Canadian teammates who won gold at the 2007 men’s world championships and represented Canada again this year in Stockholm.
Jordan’s penalty-killing prowess and a scoring touch that makes him a short-handed scoring threat should garner consideration for the Olympic squad.
Marc, also six foot four, is a shut-down defenceman with a long reach. He won a pair of gold medals at the world junior hockey championships of 2006 and 2007. But of the three brothers, his chances of participating in the Winter Olympics are murkier.
He suffered a small tear in his right eye when the puck struck him in the face March 5. Marc missed 27 regular season games and 11 playoff games. The eye won’t be 100 per cent, Marc has said, but he doesn’t believe it will hinder his return to form.
“It was more of just adapting to the depth perception and things like that when I was coming back,” Marc explained. “It just wasn’t clicking when I was trying to come back in the playoffs there. But with the time off and the training now, everything’s back to normal and I’m feeling really good.
“Limitations? I have no limitations at all. From the time I was cleared to start working out, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do as far as physically getting ready.”
Staal sprained his right medial collateral ligament in a frightening knee-on-knee collision with Sweden defenceman Alex Edler in the quarter-final of this year’s world championship.
“I feel better than I thought I would, to be honest,” Eric said. “Now at this point, at the end of August, I’ve been skating a few times now and I feel there won’t be any issues when training camp starts.”
Edler was suspended for the remainder of the world championship. The International Ice Hockey Federation meted out an additional two-game suspension that Edler would serve in Sochi if he’s named to the Swedish Olympic team.
“They gave him a little bit more, which is fine by me,” Eric said.