CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Hockey is in the air in Colorado and at the South Suburban Family Sports Center as Colorado Avalanche prospects wrapped up the second day of rookie camp.
Even if you weren’t watching on Tuesday, you could certainly hear the hard work going on in preparation for the NHL training camp on Friday. Skates carving up the ice, errant pucks rattling the glass, boards rumbling as bodies bounced around. Even the echoing pings of pucks off the post filled the air with the familiar reverberations of hockey.
That was the story of day two, not the sounds but the effort out on the ice. Everyone in attendance took their game up a notch, pushing harder to separate themselves from the pack while finding their comfort level as well.
The morning opened up with the usual passing and shooting drills, touching on fundamentals and warming up reaction times, before moving into one-on-one and two-on-two puck battles. With players feeling more relaxed out on the ice, things intensified rapidly over the course of the sessions.
“I feel like yesterday, day one, was just to get our feet wet a little bit. Get used to the pace. Definitely today the intensity picked up a little bit at the end,” said 18-year-old forward Nick Magyar. “Did a good skate and also some battle drills at the end. I think that was good, start competing with each other and I think it’s just going to build into tomorrow.”
Bodies were thrown around, chinstraps were tightened, and lessons were learned out on the ice from the variety of coaches giving direction, including defense development consultant Adam Foote and Lake Erie Monsters head coach Dean Chynoweth.
“It was fun. The pace was up today,” said 20-year-old prospect Troy Bourke of the skate. “Obviously the big boys upstairs were watching today closely. The compete level was up there and day two was pretty fun.”
With scouts and coaches watching the days events from above, every player on the ice looked to bring their best so it would be noted by the collective. This held true throughout the morning, including during the final portion of the skate which was a conditioning drill known as “The Mountain”.
Players dashed up the ice to each painted line and back to the goal line again until they had gone the length of the rink and back. Then they switched. This cycle was repeated multiple times, testing the stamina and mental fortitude of those on the ice.
For some, it was grueling. For others, it was a necessary part of their journey to improvement and potentially playing in the NHL.
“I think that’s the most important part of the practice. They’re looking, up top, at how guys are competing through the end,” said Magyar. “Yeah, they’re looking at the battles drills. They’re looking at the skills you’re doing throughout the practice. But also the effort’s got to be there all the way at the end and that will show in the third period to them and over time and so on.
“I think, at the end, you’ve just got to push through and, no matter how bad your lungs are hurting or how bad your legs are hurting, that you’ve just got to push through it, and it will pay off in the end, in their eyes and also (for) you as a player.”
This sentiment was also shared by Bourke, a teammate and, yet, also the competition.
“Every day, you try to make an impression. I’m here to get better,” said Bourke. “It’s day-by-day. You just try to work on little things. Try to make your game better. It’s going to be a long process throughout the years.
“I think it’s about getting better each day and having fun.”
It also gets easier for the players if there is no pressure on them to prove they deserve a spot right now. Instead of worrying about making a roster, netminder Spencer Martin gets time to soak everything in during his second camp with the Avalanche, learning and growing as part of the future of the club.
“I just worry about stopping pucks and getting better because that’s what we’re doing here. I know I’m going back to junior this year, so (I’m) just gaining a lot of good experiences and I’m enjoying it,” said Martin, who is thrilled about working with goalie coaches Francois Allaire and Jean-Ian Filiatrault and Avs head coach Patrick Roy. “It’s been a blessing really to be part of the organization, (to) get to work with experienced guys like that. I feel like I’m getting better every day and adjusting.”
Rookie camp continues with the final day of on-ice practices on Wednesday at Family Sports Center. Goalies are set to begin their workouts at 9:45 a.m., while the rest of the players will hit the ice around 15 minutes later.
All practices during the Avalanche's rookie and training camp are free and open to the public.