CENTENNIAL, Colo. – The drills and the colors of the practice jerseys might have changed during the Colorado Avalanche’s 2012-13 training camp, but one thing didn’t – the fan support at the South Suburban Family Sports Center.
That support did not go unnoticed by the players.
“It has been awesome,” said captain Gabriel Landeskog of the fans that attended the practices throughout the week. “We really didn’t know what to expect. The fans have been here every day cheering us on and it has really been awesome. We are excited to be back.”
Since the first day of training camp when the team practiced in front of a standing-room-only crowd, the attendance and support the team has received at their practice facility has impressed both the players and head coach Joe Sacco.
“When we came here on Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout,” Sacco said.
“I know our players appreciate it. Even if you come out to a practice and you see the stands are full, there is certainly more motivation there to go out and maybe give a little bit more then you normally would in that situation. It is more fun too because you have people watching.
Those extra eyes on the players might have been a reason why the practices were as fast paced and intense as they were.
John Mitchell agreed with his coach that more people watching could help motivate the team.
“They certainly can rile the boys up for sure, when they are all there and they are all loud,” Mitchell said. “It is good to see the support and we hope to see it all year long.”
The players are also very appreciative of all the love that they have received outside the rink, both this season and throughout their careers in Colorado.
“I can’t say one bad word about the fans here and they have been really good to me and my family,” said Milan Hejduk, who is entering his 14th season with the Avalanche. “Going out to dinner, they (the fans) just appreciate whatever I have done here and you feel the support. It is an awesome feeling.”
The Avalanche closed out its sixth and final day of training camp on Friday morning and flew to Minnesota in the afternoon for their season opening contest on Saturday with the Wild.
Colorado fans won’t have to wait too much longer to see their team in-person as the club will have its home opener on Tuesday at Pepsi Center.
And while the club’s focus the past several days has been on their season opener with the Wild, you have to believe that after Saturday night the Avalanche will be just as focused and excited to play in front of their home crowd when they welcome the Los Angeles Kings to the Mile High City.
“I have always been a guy who looks to try and give back to the fans and show that appreciation,” Landeskog said. “They are always here and cheering us on, especially at the Pepsi Center.”
Adam Steinberg contributed to this story.