CALGARY -- OK. Other countries may have most of their very best players. We don't.
Fine. Other nations have players who have been playing all year. Half of ours haven't.
But none of them have Marty Brodeur to stand on guard for thee.
Or Roberto Luongo on deck.
Or Marty Turco in the hole.
True, not one of them arrived for the start of Team Canada's training camp here yesterday having seen any rubber lately ...
But is there any goaltender in the world who can come out of the box and be as great as Brodeur after not having stopped a shot in months?
Is there another who can come off the bench like Luongo to win the gold-medal game at the World Hockey Championships two years ago, or the semifinal against the Czech Republic at the World Cup of Hockey back in September?
Brodeur was a study here yesterday as he put on the pads and, for the third time this season, went in the nets looking like he'd never been away.
He's incredible that way.
"I believe he's the best goaltender in the world and he's proved it over and over again. It's just amazing how he can go in there and do what he does without stopping a puck in ages. Just a natural, I guess," said Calgary Flame Robyn Regehr, who played with Brodeur in the World Cup of Hockey and the Worldstars Tour of Europe in December.
"That's what special talents can do," said Kris Draper, also playing with him for the third time this year.
"It's the same situation as the World Cup of Hockey. I hadn't seen a puck for four months. I don't think it's that big a deal."
With the exception of an outdoor game in the rain in Hamilton, Brodeur hasn't stopped a puck since Dec. 21 in Poland when the Worldstars Tour ended.
Brodeur didn't hesitate about playing for Team Canada. Not for a second.
He said he's disappointed in some of the World Cup and Olympic members of Team Canada who said no, but he didn't dwell on it.
"I never thought not to come. To see some of the players bowing out was kind of hard. But everybody here has come to win and embrace it," he said. Brodeur has a chance to become a member of an exclusive club of Canadians - a chance to win a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold medal, World Cup of Hockey (or Canada Cup) and a World Hockey Championship.
Last year in Prague, Scott Niedermayer completed the grand slam with this team, joining Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan and Rob Blake - all of whom are noticeable by their absence here this year.
"I talked to Igor Larionov about that. He did it with Russia. Not many guys have won all of them," Brodeur said.
Brodeur, by losing the season, may lose his chance to break some of the records held by Patrick Roy and others. But he says maybe it'll help him get them.
"Igor told me that taking one year off like this might add two years on the back of my career."
Brodeur says he's not going to ask for the captain's 'C' he wore in goal for the Worldstars on the pre-Christmas European tour.
"It's hard to skate by the bench to rally the troops," he laughed.
SMYTH IS THE GUY
"Ryan Smyth has a lot of experience. I'm sure he'll be the most vocal guy in the bench," he said of the Edmonton Oiler who has been captain of the last four Team Canadas at the World Hockey Championships.
Brodeur says he thinks playing for the Worldstars will help at the Worlds.
"I think so," he said. "The bigger ice surface makes it a little bit different."
He hopes he has a little more support.
"There weren't too many guys coming back. I'm not used to that," said the New Jersey Devil, who adds he's looking forward to being back and being in a positive situation in hockey again.
He says he hopes the fans will embrace the team because they're Canada, instead of booing them because of the NHL lockout.
"We're here making a commitment to Canada. We're not making a commitment to the NHL. I like to compete. This is something really exciting in my life. I'm going to give it everything I have."
"This is the greatest thing I can do in 2005."