Luongo and 5 B.C. players on Olympic men's hockey team
Men's team aims to defend gold medal at 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi next month
Vancouver Canucks goalie Robert Luongo and five B.C. hockey players will be heading to Sochi, Russia, to represent Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics next month.
Luongo, who was born in Montreal and raised in Quebec, is the favourite to start in net for Canada, but he'll have to play well if he wants to keep it that way.
If he falters, Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who was born in Vancouver and raised in the northern B.C. community of Anahim Lake, has been picked to replace him in net.
Luongo is also currently suffering through a groin injury and Canada has until Feb. 12 — or 24 hours before its first Olympic game — to replace any injured players.
Luongo was originally the backup to New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic team, but was in net for the four straight wins that earned the men's team the Olympic gold medal.
The four other B.C. players who made the elite squad of 25 Canadians are:
- Vancouver Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis, who was born in Smithers and played junior hockey for the Prince George Cougars.
- Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith, who was born in Winnipeg, but raised in B.C. and played junior hockey with the Penticton Panthers.
- Dallas Stars captain and forward Jamie Benn, who was born in Victoria and played junior hockey for the Kelowna Rockets.
- Nashville Predators captain and defenceman Shea Weber, who was born in Sicamous and played for the Kelowna Rockets.
Hamhuis said playing for Canada is always a major privilege. The Canucks defencemen was considered a longshot to make the team just a few months ago --- punctuated by scoring on his own goal in October.
"I've been fortunate enough to have the experience of doing it in the past and it never gets old putting on that Canadian jersey," he said.
But, he said the jersey comes with a lot of responsibility. "We've got a very proud hockey nation that wants to win."
The team captain has yet to be named, but there is lots of speculation it will be the NHL's points leader Sidney Crosby, who scored the winning goal in the final, gold-medal-winning game against the U.S. in 2010.
Crosby said getting Team Canada into the gold medal game would be a challenge this year.
"Everyone expects to win gold. That's always been the expectation and I don't think that's going to change," he said.
That doesn't make it any easier, he said. "I think we all realize other countries are finding ways to get better, and we need to do the same."
First test against Norway
In Sochi, Canada will be slotted in Group B along with Austria, Norway and Finland.
Canada's first game is on Feb. 13 against Norway. The Canadians then play Austria on Feb. 14, followed by the last game of the group stage against Finland on Feb. 16. Each game begins at 9 p.m. Sochi time (9 a.m. PT).
The quarter-finals are scheduled for Feb. 19, with the semifinals on Feb. 21 and the gold-medal game on Feb. 23.