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Staal brothers aiming for an Olympic hat trick

by Todd Kimberley

"I don't think anyone in our family realized how far we've taken this, and it's been really surreal."
-- Jordan Staal

CALGARY -- What's the sound of an Olympic dream leaving the launch pad?

In the Staal household, it sounds a lot like this.

"Marc was at my place, and Eric was next door," Jordan Staal was saying at Calgary's Pengrowth Saddledome this week, describing the scene in early July at the family's cottage near Thunder Bay, Ont.

"I got the phone call, and I texted Eric: 'Did you get the call too?' He had a voicemail message that he hadn't heard, and he listened and called me right back.

"Marc hadn't heard it yet either ... I saw that he had the same call, and I knew exactly what it was, but I let him listen to it first -- I was fist-pumping when I saw he had a missed call," added Jordan. "We gave our parents (Henry and Linda) a shout right after that, and pretty much the whole family knew pretty quickly."

And with that exchange of cellular elation, three brothers from hockey's most heralded modern-day family took the first step toward becoming Olympians -- being named to the 46-man roster of the Canadian Men's National Team Orientation Camp from Aug. 24-27.

As NHL fans are by now keenly aware, Eric, 24, is an emerging superstar and a Stanley Cup champion with the Carolina Hurricanes; Jordan, 20, is a two-way center whose tenacity helped the Pittsburgh Penguins capture the Cup in June; and Marc, 22, now has two years of blue-line experience under his belt with the New York Rangers.

"I don't think anyone in our family realized how far we've taken this, and it's been really surreal," offered the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Jordan.

The Staal brothers -- including 19-year-old forward Jared, a draft pick of the Phoenix Coyotes -- have been called the "Second Family of Hockey," and the "Next Sutters."

Canada's 2010 Olympic men's hockey coach, Mike Babcock, is impressed.

"I think it's unbelievable," Babcock said. "There's got to be some proud parents at home. And obviously some real good genetics there. They've got the fourth one on the way (Jared spent the 2008-09 season with AHL San Antonio).

"They seem like quality, quality young men. The Stanley Cup's been in their house twice. Pretty special."

Eric Staal, who led the brothers' charge into the NHL, is a natural scorer with a great shot, and has bagged 153 goals in the past four seasons. Known for his size, determination and awareness, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Eric chalked up 28 playoff points during Carolina's '06 Cup run and 15 more this past spring as the 'Canes advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals against Pittsburgh.

A member of Canada's three-man taxi squad at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Eric is a virtual lock to wear the Canadian sweater in Vancouver.

"We don't talk about it every day, but it would be pretty amazing and something special if we all made this team," Eric said. "Words couldn't describe what that'd be like.

"I was fortunate enough to play with Jordan at the World Championships (in 2007 at Moscow), played on a line with him for a little bit. If we got that opportunity again, we'd all be doing everything we can to help this team win."

Marc, 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, is a budding shut-down defenseman with the Rangers, with a long reach, a crafty hockey mind and superior skating skills. He's not intimidated by the blue-line nameplates that read Niedermayer, Pronger, Regehr, Robidas and Green.

"I know I have to be doing something right to get on the list," he said. "It's pretty cool to be a part of it, but at the same time, I'm coming into camp confident and not just ready to be there, but trying to make an impression.

"They've said it's not a tryout camp. The first half of the season, they will put a lot of onus on how you play and how you're doing. So I'm not nervous at all."

Jordan, meanwhile, saw his stock rise immensely as the young Pens ascended to the NHL throne in June. He won't turn 21 until September, and already has 49 pressure-cooked playoff games to his credit. He's known for his tenacity and his penalty-killing prowess -- he led the NHL with seven short-handed goals during his 2006-07 rookie season.

"It's definitely an exciting opportunity. I was pretty surprised just to be invited to camp," Jordan said. "I'm on the radar, at least, and I'm excited to show them what I've got."

Jordan's personal tour with the Stanley Cup in late July included a visit to Thunder Bay's Nor-West Arena, where he and his brothers played minor hockey, and a party at his cottage on Shebandowan Lake.
"I think it's unbelievable. There's got to be some proud parents at home. And obviously some real good genetics there." - Mike Babcock
"It was a different feeling watching your brother do it (in 2006), but my day with the Cup was really exciting. Met a lot of people, took a lot of pictures, had a great party," Jordan said.

"This year, Eric was around it quite a bit, considering his name's already on it, and Marc still kept his distance, as did Jared," he added. "It's a funny superstition, but at the same time I don't think the brothers want to steal the show. Let the one brother have his time with the Cup."

About six months from now, the Staal brothers are hoping for more glory -- in triplicate.

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