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Hall and Eberle move closer to Olympic dream

by Ryan Frankson / Edmonton Oilers
EDMONTON – Oilers forwards Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle moved a significant step closer to having a major dream realized on Monday as they received invites to Hockey Canada's Olympic Orientation Camp. 

Forty-seven of the nation's top players, with 25 forwards including Hall and Eberle, will converge on Calgary August 25-28 for the camp, as Hockey Canada continues the process of putting together its team for the 2014 Winter Olympics this coming February in Sochi, Russia. 

"It's quite an honour," Eberle said. "The Olympics and obviously the Stanley Cup as well, is something you dream about one day playing in, especially for Canada. Hockey is our game, basically our national sport. The first step of trying to make this team is pretty exciting, so I'm looking forward to the camp."

"It's a special honour and something you have to work very hard for," Hall added. "This is a great first step so I'm pretty happy, but I  now there's a big road ahead for me and I'm going to have to start next season as good as anyone. It's a good challenge for me, and I'm looking forward to it."

While both players expressed plenty of excitement about their invites to the Orientation Camp, they know this is just the start of a long journey towards a Team Canada roster spot. Forty-seven players are invited to the Camp in August, but the final roster for Sochi will be about half that size. The Oilers young guns realize just how special an opportunity this could be.

"It's probably the best hockey you'll ever play," Hall said. "Just to be able to go over to Russia and be part of Team Canada and experience the Olympic atmosphere would be amazing. To have friends and family there would make it even better. There's no bigger goal that I have for myself right now." 

"It's the biggest stage you can get to, playing with and against the best players in the world." Eberle added. "After watching Vancouver, that was the first year where I really understood how big it was and how much Canada loves that. And then watching us win gold was pretty surreal. Hopefully I have a chance to be a part of something like that." 

Oilers GM Craig MacTavish said the team is honoured to have two of its brightest young stars invited to the camp and believes it will be a hugely beneficial experience for them.

"It's always good to have your core players interface as much as possible with the game's best," MacTavish said. "It's a pretty good indication of how highly regarded these two players are amongst their peer group to have this opportunity. We couldn't be happier for our players to compete for a spot on that Olympic team."

Hall and Eberle are preparing for their fourth NHL seasons and have quickly become two of the League's marquee forwards. Hall led the Oilers in scoring this past year with 50 points in 45 games, while Eberle led the team the previous two campaigns, putting up  76 points in 78 games in 2011-12. They know it's going to take a combination of team and personal success early in 2013-14 to secure a spot on Team Canada. 

"I felt like I had a really good season last year and, along with myself, I feel like our team is growing in the right direction," Hall said. "I think the biggest thing (Hockey Canada) looks at is the start of your season. I'm working hard to get my game back to where it was last season and even reach another level. And if our team is as good as we think we're going to be, it'll lead to individual success and hopefully get our guys to the Olympics."

Canada's Olympic Camp roster includes 15 players who captured gold medals at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, including Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, who scored the famous golden goal in overtime against the United States. Both Oilers forwards highlighted Crosby as a player they're looking forward to skating with at the camp.   

"One guy that definitely jumps out is Sidney Crosby," Eberle said. "I haven't had the chance to play against him yet. He's the best player in the world, so just to see his on-ice and off-ice habits will be something I can watch and learn from. I'm really looking forward to that."
A teammate on the ice at Orientation Camp will also be beneficial. Hall and Eberle have played together for three years in Edmonton, also on Team Canada at both the IIHF World Junior Championship and World Championship tournaments, so they're hoping their efforts lead them to Sochi together as well. 

"It's great to see him there too," Hall said of his teammate/friend/roommate. "He's a great player and such an easy player to play with. Our transition to the NHL over the last three years has been a lot easier being around each other and feeding off each other. Who knows? If we have a really good start to the year next year maybe they'll take us as a package deal. We're both excited for it."
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