ARLINGTON, Va. -- A soft-spoken Minnesotan, Paul Martin does not make a habit of revealing too much to the outside world.
Quietly going about his business has worked out well for this Penguins defenseman. At 32, he once again has earned an invitation to USA Hockey's Olympic orientation camp, his third time in contention for a coveted roster spot on the national team.
Coming off his best season as a Penguins player, in which he scored 23 points in 34 games, he should be brimming with confidence for what this year could bring. But Monday, as Team USA's two-day camp began across the Potomac River from the Capitol, he couldn't hide his hurt from never playing in an Olympic game.
"As far as disappointment and frustration as an athlete goes," Martin said, "that I think has been my toughest thing to get over in my career."
In 2006, Martin, then with the New Jersey Devils, was one of three players selected for the "taxi squad" in the Turin Games in Italy, which meant he was only able to play in case of an injury and couldn't stay in the Olympic Village. At that point, he assumed he would be line for a spot in 2010 if he did his part developing as a player.
And Martin did that.
"He was probably a shoe-in to make that team," said fellow Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, who was chosen for the 2010 team.
In late October 2009, when Martin took the ice for the Devils against the Penguins in Pittsburgh, all he had to do was stay healthy and play his game for a few months to punch his ticket to Vancouver. But in that game, on the penalty-kill in the third period, a Bill Guerin shot hit Martin in the left arm, causing him to leave Mellon Arena with his arm in a sling.
Martin would soon get the bad news -- it was broken -- but his Olympic dream still felt salvageable. He was supposed to be out eight weeks, only eight turned into 10 or 11, and then he found himself in front of a specialist, telling him he needed surgery.
"The door slowly shut as the weeks went by," Martin said.
When Martin was a boy, growing up in Elk River, Minn., the goal he most wanted to accomplish in hockey was playing in the NHL and winning a Stanley Cup. But, once he donned the red, white and blue in 2001 at the World Junior Championships, he visualized a new mountaintop -- representing his country in the Olympic Games and going for gold.
To have that stripped from him because he happened to step in front of a rocket off Guerin's stick was not something he handled well.
"I struggled with it for a while," Martin said. "But I can only control so much, so that's why I'm thankful for this opportunity. I can't predict what will happen in those games in the regular season, but just to be ready if they call my name is all I can do."
Forty-eight players were invited to the orientation camp, where no on-ice work takes place. The 25 guys named to the final roster in January will have done it thanks to their body of work and, for some, the way they play the first three months of the NHL season.
With Penguins coach Dan Bylsma serving as Team USA's head coach and Penguins general manager Ray Shero taking on Team USA assistant general manager duties, Martin -- along with Orpik and Penguins forward Beau Bennett, who are also under consideration -- will be under constant evaluation.
"Last year, he bounced back and he was the defender that we know," Shero said. "For Paul, it's important to get off to a good start for the first two months of the season. We talk about players playing well at the right time. He'll be a strong candidate for sure."
Certainly, no player at this camp desires a spot more than Martin.
"I think it started a long time ago in his mind of getting ready and proving to everybody that he wanted to be on this team," said Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato, who also is on Bylsma's Team USA staff.
Martin had to watch from home in 2010 as Team USA lost to Canada in the gold-medal game in Vancouver. He said he was yelling at the TV like every other hockey fan in America, but he would rather not have to do that again.
"I'm not getting any younger," he said. "To take advantage of this one would be big."
The age factor
Orpik looked around the room Sunday night at Team USA's first meeting and had a startling realization.
"Ryan Miller and I were laughing," Orpik said. "I don't see myself as old at 32, but we were looking around and we were kind of kicking ourselves for being the oldest guys here. It's a good thing for USA Hockey. We've got so much talent coming up."
One of those up-and-comers is Bennett, 22, a forward from Gardena, Calif., who had an opposite experience at that meeting.
"It really didn't sink in until I got here and saw the guys," Bennett said. "When I got invited to the whole thing, it was in the middle of summer and I was just kind of doing my thing. Once I got here, it's pretty surreal. It's an honor to be here."
Local kids in mix, too
With Bylsma, Shero and Granato on the staff, plus three Penguins in contention for spots, it already was going to be a big Olympics for Pittsburgh.
But there was more local flavor at orientation camp. Chicago Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad of Pine-Richland High School and goaltender John Gibson of Whitehall, who will attend Anaheim Ducks camp this fall, are part of a large, young group of players being considered for the team.
Gibson believes it's a good sign for the youth hockey scene in Pittsburgh.
"When I was younger, it wasn't the best," said Gibson, 20.
"But I think as the Penguins started growing and [Sidney] Crosby and [Mario] Lemieux kind of took over, it really skyrocketed. In past years, you look around my age group and how many guys are almost playing in the NHL or getting drafted, it says a lot about the city and how hockey is improving."
J. Brady McCollough: email@example.com and Twitter @BradyMcCollough.