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Jamie Benn’s Olympic hopes remain high

Because of the nature of sports played here, there were 48 Island athletes at the 2012 London Summer Olympics while the potential representation for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games rests solely with Jamie Benn.
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Wednesday: Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn guides young players Wednesday the Ryan O'Byrne youth hockey camp. The camp last year raised $25,000 for KidSport Victoria and is expected to surpass that amount this year.

Because of the nature of sports played here, there were 48 Island athletes at the 2012 London Summer Olympics while the potential representation for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games rests solely with Jamie Benn.

Even if the Dallas Stars forward surprisingly didn’t receive an invitation to the 47-player Canadian men’s hockey team summer orientation camp, it’s not over, vowed the Peninsula Minor Hockey product from Central Saanich.

Spots will be left open until at least December or January, and Benn plans on making a statement to the selectors that they were wrong to snub him for the summer camp.

The reason he was left off the list? “I’m not sure why,” Benn said during a break Wednesday at the UVic Ian Stewart Complex, as he helped out at the Ryan O’Byrne youth hockey camp.

“It’s obviously their decision. But it’s given me the fire for the start of the [NHL] season. I want to be on that Olympic team. I’m going to have to go out in the first half of the season and make them want to pick me. I’m just going to have to have the best first half of the year I can have and make an impact for the Dallas Stars.”

International sport is important to Benn. More than that, it runs in the family. Benn won a gold medal at the 2009 world junior hockey championships and represented Canada in the 2012 IIHF world championships. Dad Randy Benn won gold medals in softball at the 1976 world championships in New Zealand and 1979 Pan American Games in Puerto Rico.

“It’s a totally different experience [than in club play] when you put on a national team jersey,” Benn said. “It’s a pretty special feeling to be representing your country.”

Benn has a couple of things going for him in his bid to get to Sochi. The Stars’ new head coach, Lindy Ruff, is a Canadian Olympic team assistant coach and will have a close-up view of Benn’s play. And now the contract distractions are behind Benn as the 24-year-old emerging power forward can focus totally on the ice after inking a five-year $26.25 million US deal in January.

Focusing on the ice meant a whole other thing Wednesday, however, as Benn imparted instruction to the young players in the summer kids camp of fellow Island NHLer O’Byrne.

“My main message to these children is to have fun playing hockey,” Benn said.

“There’s no need to put pressure on kids.”

Several NHLers from the Island and others — including O’Byrne, Benn, Tyson Barrie, Matt Irwin, Manny Malhotra, Paul Bissonnette and Boyd Gordon — are taking part in O’Byrne’s annual camp for kids, which began Monday and runs through Friday.

The camp last year raised $25,000 for KidSport Victoria and is expected to surpass that amount this year when the 2013 total is announced today at 6 p.m. at Kirby’s Source for Sports, where items such as a Phil Kessel jersey and two tickets to the 2014 B.C. Place Stadium game between the Canucks and Senators will be raffled off.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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