On Thursday morning, the Jr. Avalanche traveled to the suburban town of Wendake, Quebec, to revisit the roots of the game, skating on a large outdoor rink. As the blue sky glimmered off of the ice, it was evident that the hockey gods were looking down on the peewees as they practiced, preparing for a do-or-die game the following day.
Right wing Holden Spence said it was a mix of fun and hard work.
"It was kind of like pond hockey but it was a team practice," he said. "We did some regular drills. It was really fun."
The outdoor practice was held at a recreational center attached to a school. Local students often enjoy skating on the rink as an extracurricular activity. As a thank you, the Jr. Avalanche presented an authentic Colorado Avalanche team-signed jersey to the staff along with some of their Jr. Avs team pins.
"Some of the kids came out to watch us skate," said Spence. "It was just a really cool experience."
Practicing outside was yet another first for this peewee team. Always questionable in Northeastern Canada, the sun shined bright for the duration of the practice, enhancing the already amazing experience.
"It was awesome to have a team practice where we would usually just play pond hockey for fun," Spence added. "It definitely will help us get in the right mindset for the big game tomorrow."
Following the sunny morning skate, the team stopped at a local shop to get their skates sharpened. Although the outdoor rink is regularly maintained, skating on exposed ice can affect the blades differently than an indoor arena. This crucial stop was the beginning of the off-ice preparations the Jr. Avalanche would perform before the tournament game against the Atlanta Fire on Friday afternoon.