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Luongo happy to talk about hockey at Canada camp

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Roberto Luongo has turned his attention to the future.

After a tumultuous time with the Vancouver Canucks, Luongo is ready to set his sights on a strong start to the NHL season with an eye on becoming Canada's goaltender at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

OLYMPIC ORIENTATION CAMPS is providing blog updates from both USA's orientation camp in Arlington and Canada's camp in Calgary as they begin to prepare for the 2014 Winter Olympics. READ MORE ›

"You go through stuff throughout your life, throughout your career, and you try to learn from them, you try to get stronger from them," Luongo said at Canada national men's team orientation camp. "Over the course of the last year, I've been through a few things, and hopefully I've got some experience out of it and [it] made me a better player and person. Right now, I just want to play hockey. That's the bottom line. It doesn't matter where it is, I want to play hockey, and I'm happy to be starting again and I want to focus on playing hockey."

Luongo is getting his first opportunity to focus on on-ice action as one of five goaltenders at camp, despite the fact there isn't an actual on-ice component.

"Unfortunately we're not going to be going on the ice, which is a shame a little bit," he said, "but the fact that we're getting together just gets us excited for what's down the road here."

It also gives Luongo the opportunity to turn the conversation.

"Well it's good to be talking hockey again," he said. "All I've talked about are things that happened, so it's good to start focusing on hockey. Unfortunately we're not going on the ice, but this is a good start, and at the end of the day, I just want to play hockey and focus on that and eliminate as many of the distractions as I can."

Other players have noticed those distractions.

"I feel for Roberto, having to answer these questions," Sidney Crosby said. "In the summer, to answer about this, I'm sure it's not something he wants to talk about, but that's the position we're put in as hockey players."

The ability to put it aside will be important for Luongo. A strong start to the 2013-14 season could put him in the driver's seat for the starting job in Sochi, the role he had in helping Canada win gold four years ago in Vancouver.

According to Canada coach Mike Babcock, that history makes Luongo impossible to rule out as his top netminder. Corey Crawford, Braden Holtby, Carey Price and Mike Smith are the other goalies at camp.

"What Lou's got going for him is he's won in the past," Babcock said. "I've been with him twice, at the '04 World Championships and 2010, and he wins every time. To me, he's got that confidence in himself."

Despite experience at the Olympics and prior history under Babcock, the Canucks goaltender said the starting role isn't already his.

"I think it's not anyone's job to win or lose," Luongo said. "I think it's an open competition, and whoever plays best deserves to be the starter. That's the way I see it. You work hard and you want to be rewarded for your efforts. If I'm going to be there, I want to deserve it."

The 34-year-old admitted he wasn't sure if he'd get the opportunity to compete for the spot. His low points in Vancouver had Luongo questioning if he'd get an opportunity with Canada or if he had fallen off the radar completely.

"I was a backup last year (with the Canucks) so you start to wonder certain things," Luongo said. "I obviously know the first half of this season is going to be really important. That's what I kept telling myself in the back of my mind and not to think too much about it. Things will sort themselves out, and I have an opportunity to re-establish myself. I'm happy to be playing and being a starter. That's what matters the most right now and that's what I'm focused on.

"At the end of the day, that's all you really need, right?"

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