MORRISON, Colo.--Colorado Avalanche prospects visited Red Rocks Park, one of the Denver area's crown jewels, on the second day of development camp, but the trip was far from a sight-seeing expedition.
While there were plenty of pictures taken during their excursion at the outdoor amphitheater that includes 69 rows for seating and has featured some of the biggest performing acts in the world, the Avalanche rookies instead utilized the venue for an early Thursday morning workout in what would become one of the warmest day of the year.
With the presence of locals getting their sweat on as well--including local high school football and volleyball teams--the Avs' strength and conditioning staff put the players through a 40-minute workout that involved running, jumping and climbing.
"It was really hard to breathe, really thin air. It was tough, but it was a really good workout," said Tyler Weiss.
After going up and down several times in the seating area, the Avalanche prospects went down to the lowest point possible near the road for the final exercise of the day. … involved the players running straight up the north side stairs from the very bottom, nearly a 500-foot climb in less than a quarter-mile.
"We ran a lot of steps. That is mostly what we did honestly. We ran up a thousand flight of stairs," said Weiss, who might have exaggerated the distance a bit, but it was still a heck of a climb.
After recovering from the sprint up and taking a group photo, the Avs went to a nearby meeting room where they heard from a guest speaker, Kirstie Ennis.
Ennis, who will receive the Pat Tillman Award at the 2019 ESPY Awards later this summer, is a retired U.S. Marine Corps sergeant that has earned three masters degrees, competed in Paralympic snowboard boardercross and banked slalom, has summitted some of the tallest peaks in the world and founded the Kirstie Ennis Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of individuals and families.
She has done it all since being medically retired from the marines due to injuries from a 2012 helicopter crash while deployed in Afghanistan. Ennis has had more than a dozen surgeries after suffering brain, spinal, ear, eye and leg injuries from the crash, which included having her left leg amputated above the knee.
After climbing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, Carstensz Pyramid and Aconcagua, she's now looking to become the first woman with an above knee amputation to summit the tallest peaks on each continent, the "Seven Summits."
Ennis spoke to the prospects about her journey through the Marine Corps, her struggle in dealing with and overcoming her injuries and her outlook on life. She discussed how failure is a part of life, but it's the attitude that you have that can make you stronger from it. Ennis stressed that it is OK to be creative and find your own path but also hold yourself accountable.
"You could take out so much from what she has been through," Weiss said. "It's a lesson that she is trying to tell us. You got to appreciate life. Don't always get down on yourself and always keep your head up and keep working hard."
There were several parallels that could be drawn from Ennis' time in the military and her passion for mountaineering with the players' hockey careers. She finished her talk by highlighting her most recent expedition in attempting to summit Mount Everest in April and May.
Ennis was 200 meters from the top of the highest peak on the planet when she decided to turn back, but it wasn't because she couldn't do it. It was because two members of her team were running low on oxygen and wouldn't be able to summit and return back to camp alive. It was a tough--and expensive--decision she had to make, but it was ultimately an easy one as her team's safety was more important than her fulfilling a dream.
"It was motivating," said Denis Smirnov. "Obviously we say our job is hard, but you look at her and wow, she has been through a lot more. What a great speech by her and it was so inspiring and so emotional. We'll probably all take it to heart tonight and think about it and improve ourselves as a person and push our limits."
BACK ON THE ICE
The Avalanche prospects returned to the ice in the afternoon with a session that was similar to Wednesday's morning activities.
The players were split up into four groups, with two taking part in different on-ice sessions with a focus on skill development while the other two did off-ice work. The players then switched after 90 minutes
ON TAP FOR FRIDAY
Colorado's rookies have another practice session like Thursday's on Friday morning before heading to Fort Collins for a Burgundy versus White 3-on-3 game at EPIC Blue Arena at 6 p.m. MT.
Both the morning practices at Family Sports Center and the evening scrimmage in Northern Colorado are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.