Hockey Canada took the first major step in defense of its Olympic gold medal on Monday by announcing the 47 players invited to the country's orientation camp set to take place in Calgary from Aug. 25-28.
Those players on the roster, which features five goalies, 17 defensemen and 25 forwards, will battle for an opportunity to represent their country at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The men's hockey tournament begins Feb. 12 and concludes with the gold medal game on Feb. 23 at 7 a.m. ET.
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews will join four of his teammates at camp. There are three Staal brothers invited to camp and four players from the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins, including captain Sidney Crosby.
Canada's 25-man roster -- 22 skaters and three goalies -- for the 2014 Sochi Olympics must be announced about five to six weeks before the start of the Games. The Canadians, who defeated the United States 3-2 in overtime to win gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, will be in a pool with Finland, Norway and Austria in Russia.
"It's gone by really fast," Crosby said. "Obviously with injuries and stuff like that, too, it wasn't like there was three full hockey seasons to kind of look back on. It's definitely gone by quick, but it's exciting. You start to kind of think about it and obviously with it being announced that we're going."
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced on July 19 that the League would send its players to the Winter Games for a fifth time.
Crosby will be joined at the camp by Penguins defenseman Kris Letang and forwards Chris Kunitz and James Neal. Toews will be in the company of teammates Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on defense, Patrick Sharp at forward and Corey Crawford in goal. New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal will accompany his brothers, Carolina Hurricanes forwards Eric and Jordan Staal. Representing the Sharks are defensemen Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and forwards Logan Couture and Joe Thornton.
The average age of the camp roster is 27 years, six months and 25 days.
Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings was reappointed as coach of Canada's Olympic team earlier on Monday. He'll be joined on the staff by St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff and Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien.
Babcock, Hitchcock and Ruff were behind Canada's 2010 Olympic gold-medal winning squad in Vancouver. The country rebounded from a seventh-place finish at the 2006 Olympics in Turin.
The oldest player invited is 37-year-old right wing Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning. St. Louis became the oldest player to win an NHL points with 60 on 17 goals and a League-high 43 assists during the 2012-13 season. The youngest player is Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall, who turns 22 in November.
Canada opens round-robin play at the Olympic men's hockey tournament on Feb. 13 against Norway at noon ET. The Canadians will also compete against Austria and Finland in round-robin competition. The team closes its preliminary-round schedule in Group B on Feb. 16 against Finland.
The NHL will pause from Feb. 9-25, 2014, while the Olympics are played.
"Just being Canadian you realize pretty quickly that people come together that time of year, especially, and when it's hockey even more so," Crosby said. "I think that you want to go there and find a way to win gold."
The goalie invitees for Canada's camp are Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Mike Smith, Braden Holtby and Crawford. After taking over for Martin Brodeur during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Luongo led Canada to a win over Team USA by stopping 34 shots in the gold medal game.
"I would like to congratulate the players being invited to our orientation camp," Canada's executive director Steve Yzerman said in a statement. "This marks an important step for this program, as it is our only opportunity to be together as a group before Sochi."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
TEAM CANADA CAMP INVITES
Defense: Karl Alzner, Washington Capitals; Jay Bouwmeester, St. Louis Blues; Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks; Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings; Mike Green, Washington Capitals; Dan Hamhuis, Vancouver Canucks; Travis Hamonic, New York Islanders; Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks; Kristopher Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins; Marc Methot, Ottawa Senators; Dion Phaneuf, Toronto Maple Leafs; Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues; Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks; Marc Staal, New York Rangers; P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens; Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose Sharks; Shea Weber, Nashville Predators.
Forwards: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins; Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings; Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks; Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins; Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche; Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers; Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks; Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers; Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers; Chris Kuntiz, Pittsburgh Penguins; Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg Jets; Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins; Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins; Rick Nash, New York Rangers; James Neal, Pittsburgh Penguins; Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks; Michael Richards, Los Angeles Kings; Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks; Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes; Jordan Staal, Carolina Hurricanes; Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning; Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning; John Tavares, New York Islanders; Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks; Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks.
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