The starting line for Canada's road to another gold medal is in Calgary, where 15 players from the country's 2010 Olympic gold-medal winning team and an additional 31 hopefuls are scheduled to convene Sunday for a three-day, off-ice orientation camp to show them what they can look forward to if they make it to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Games.
Details ranging from systems of play to international rules to drug testing to travel and other logistics will be covered at Hockey Canada's headquarters. Unlike in 2009, when Canada's Olympic orientation camp featured a Red-White scrimmage that drew a capacity crowd at Scotiabank Saddledome, the players will not be on the ice because of the prohibitive costs of insuring their NHL contracts.
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com and TSN reported Friday that Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux will not attend so he can focus on the rehabilitation process from his recent finger injury he sustained while golfing, leaving the count at 46.
Canada won its second gold medal in eight years in Vancouver when Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins) scored the golden goal in overtime to defeat the United States, 3-2. The Canadians won gold in 2002 in Salt Lake City, but they haven't medaled outside of North America since the NHL started sending its players to the Olympics in 1998.
Canada was fourth in Nagano, Japan in 1998 and seventh in Turin, Italy in 2006.
Crosby is among the players from the 2010 team expected to be involved in this orientation camp. He is expected to be joined by the following gold-medalists:
Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo;, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook; Anaheim Ducks forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry; Mike Richards and Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings; Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber; New York Rangers right wing Rick Nash; Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal; Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron; and the San Jose Sharks duo of Dan Boyle and Joe Thornton.
Canada executive director Steve Yzerman (Tampa Bay Lightning), who put together the 2010 team, brought back Mike Babcock (Detroit Red Wings) to coach the 2014 team. Ken Hitchcock (St. Louis Blues), Lindy Ruff (Dallas Stars) and Claude Julien (Boston Bruins) are Babcock's assistants. Hitchcock and Ruff were on his staff in 2010.
Canada should be a younger team in 2014 than it was in 2010. The average age of the players attending the camp is 27, but it's brought down significantly by many of the 32 who were not part of the 2010 team.
Edmonton Oilers left wing Taylor Hall, 21, will be the youngest player in camp. Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene, who like Hall was born in 1991, will be the second youngest at 22 years old. New York Islanders center John Tavares is 22.
Six players expected to be in camp are 23 years old: Doughty, Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, Edmonton Oilers right wing Jordan Eberle, Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic, St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.
The oldest player expected in camp is 38-year-old Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis, who played for Canada in the 2006 Olympics but did not make the team in 2010. Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is the other player invited to camp who played for Canada in 2006 but was left off the 2010 roster.
Luongo, Nash, Thornton and Eric Staal played for Canada in the 2006 Olympics.
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford is the only player expected to be in camp who has never played for Canada at the international level.
Eight players who will be in Calgary (Crawford; Hamonic; Holtby; Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner; Boston Bruins forwards Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand; Canadiens goalie Carey Price; and Penguins defenseman Kris Letang) are hopeful the 2014 Olympics will be their debut for Canada at the senior level of international competition.
In addition, invitees Mike Smith (Phoenix Coyotes), Dan Hamhuis (Canucks), Mike Green (Capitals), Marc Methot (Ottawa Senators), Dion Phaneuf (Toronto Maple Leafs), Marc Staal (Rangers), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (Sharks), Jeff Carter (Kings), Chris Kunitz (Penguins), Andrew Ladd (Winnipeg Jets), James Neal (Penguins) and Patrick Sharp (Blackhawks) are looking to make Olympic debuts in Sochi.
A League-high five players from the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks are expected in camp. The Penguins and Sharks will be represented by four players each. The 47 players invited to camp have combined to appear in 21,728 NHL regular-season games, 2,369 Stanley Cup Playoff games and 57 NHL All-Star Games.
Twenty-one of the players have won the Stanley Cup, combining for 34 Stanley Cup championships.