Although there are a lot of unknowns in the world right now, Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar has stayed optimistic while the NHL season is paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It has been more than a month since the Colorado bench boss was last with his team at Pepsi Center. That was on March 11 during the Avs' game against the New York Rangers and the league began practicing self-quarantine and social distancing the following day when it announced a pause to the 2019-20 campaign.
While it is undetermined what the league will look like when it returns, Bednar is staying prepared for whatever the situation may be.
"It's certainly a difficult time. Like everyone else, we are in limbo and I think the uncertainty of the situation is what is tough to deal with, tough to plan for," said Bednar. "I think the players and the organization, you put a lot of preparation and hard work in every season… I think in an ideal world that we'd like to be able to come in and continue with the season and play the playoffs. That would be the best-case scenario for us, and we're still hopeful that that can happen.
"As far as planning for what the scenario is, when we return or if we return, I think that can be difficult, but there'll be circumstances that determine that. And we'll get data from the league and information from the league, and all the teams will be in the in the same boat as far as preparing to handle the different scenarios and hopefully get back playing and move on."
Bednar remains in Denver with his wife and daughter and like many other people, has had more time to read and watch TV shows while staying inside and following local laws and guidelines.
"I've been picking away at some work, reading some books, binge watching TV shows, catching up with friends that I haven't been in contact with for a while, including our players and just checking in on some guys and see what they're doing, whether it's phone calls or via text, and everyone seems to be doing fine," Bednar noted. "Some guys are still here. Some guys are spread out across the world, and they're doing the same thing. Everyone is taking this seriously and doing their part to try and flatten the curve.
"Everyone's following the guidelines, the same as the rest of the country--self-isolation and social distancing. They are doing their part to try and stay in shape and stay healthy, so they're prepared and ready to go when our season returns."
Video: Conference call with Avs head coach Jared Bednar
Bednar said multiple times during a conference call on Thursday that he is encouraged by the way that the people in the Mile High City are taking the directives of the local government seriously. The belief is that by following the ordinances, humanity can begin to return to normal sooner rather than later.
"I'm certainly hopeful that we can [finish this season], I think that's just me, I'm an optimist. And I think that watching what's going on around Denver and the way people are following the new guidelines certainly is going to help," said Bednar. "I'm hopeful that as a society, that we're going to be able to overcome this. And I hope that that's sometime here in the near future, that's just the way I look at it.
"I have to prepare as a coach, I have to be prepared for us to come back and to be able to get our team ready to go and play, and so that's what I'm doing at this point. And if it turns out, we get the information that we're not going to return, then we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. But, I'm hopeful at this point that we'll be able to get back and play at some point. I know there's a lot of discussions and the leagues around North America are gathering information and data from the right sources, and we trust them. We'll get our information from them and then move on as information is given to us."
As nobody is immune to the virus, three Colorado players have tested positive for COVID-19, but the head coach noted that all of them are doing well.
"They are feeling better. All those guys have been feeling better for quite some time now," Bednar said. "So as far as I know, they're all doing good and you know, back with their families and, you know, continuing to follow the guidelines that are given to us. So again, I think those guys were lucky, and we're lucky that there wasn't anything too serious with their symptoms and they were able to come through without any major complications."
While there are many uncertainties as to how the league will return to action, Bednar thinks a two-week training camp of sorts will help his group be prepared for games. Typically, at the start of every season, each NHL club begins the preseason with a training camp and about two weeks of exhibition games.
Before the 2019-20 campaign opened, Colorado had four full days of on-ice work before a six-game preseason schedule.
"I think that we go into training camps at the start of every season after being off for months, and things come together pretty quickly," Bednar said. "I think No. 1, the players throughout the league are so dedicated now and work so hard to stay in shape and train 12 months a year, that they'll be physically ready to go when we come back. The training camps are long and grueling, and then you play a lot of games, and sometimes I feel like they're too long and we played too many exhibition games. I think that you can get your team up to speed, get them back together and be prepared to play some competitive hockey in two weeks or less. That's the way I view it."
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar joins Altitude's Sports Social
Once this season opened, Colorado's focus was to win its division and conference to secure home-ice advantage in the postseason, and the club currently sits in second place in the Western Conference standings. The Avs have a 42-20-8 record and 92 points, two fewer than the leading St. Louis Blues, however, the Avalanche has played one fewer game than its Central Division rival.
There is a confidence around the team with an expectation for a long postseason run, and the head coach is optimistic that his group will have a chance to see it through later this spring.
"This team has done an excellent job fighting through a significant amount of adversity with some of the injuries that we've had and multiple key players out of our lineup at different times and still finding ways for other guys to step up and elevate their game and win hockey games to stay in the hunt for both the division and the conference," said Bednar. "I feel like we're a confident group, and we were gearing up and looking forward to the stretch run of the regular season and the playoffs and I don't think that that changed. Now when we come back and play it's going to be a different feeling. It's going to be the teams that can gear up and get back to where they were for the bulk of the season. The teams that can do that the most efficiently and seamlessly as possible are going to be teams that have success.
"I think our team is a real confident team, and we like what we had going on and hopefully we get the opportunity to get back and get playing it and, you know, close it out and get closure. I think players, like I said, put in a lot of work to get to the playoffs, which is the most fun time of the year. Hopefully as a league, we're able to go back and complete the season in the playoffs and hand out the Stanley Cup."