Colorado Avalanche Practice Ends with Bag Skate


The Colorado Avalanche enjoyed two days off after a grueling East Coast road trip. However, if they’d realized their first practice back after that mini-break would conclude with a bag skate, they’d likely have asked to practice both days.

Bag skates are not popular with players. These conditioning drills are designed to force even the most athletic of skaters, as all NHL players are, to skate their, well, bags off.

The bag skate is sometimes used as a punishment for under-performing teams, according to USA Today. Former head coach Joe Sacco used them all the time. (He did not participate in them, though, which is why the Avs never got better with him — he was punishing the wrong people.)

Considering the Avs finished their road trip with two victories, it’s unlikely head coach Patrick Roy was using the drill as a punishment. Such hard skates are also used to promote stamina, so that players have endurance for the whole 60 minutes. They also spur them to give their best throughout the game. Sound like what the Avs need?

Indeed, during a post-practice presser, when Roy was asked about the “bag skate,” he laughed and said, “That’s the negative side. For me it’s conditioning.” He explained:

"“The guys had two days off. First of all, we want to continue to work on our one-on-one. That’s the reason that we have some success — our players are better at one-on-one situations. Also, I felt our conditioning was getting better on that road trip, and we saw a difference in our play. We certainly want to continue where we finished.”"

Colorado Avalanche bag skate:

The best part is watching the poor goalies, Reto Berra and Calvin Pickard, in all their goalie gear — they look like linebackers running for a touchdown! (Just speculation, but did Semyon Varlamov’s groin suddenly feel pulled when he started suspecting today’s practice would end with hard skating?) The hard skating only lasted about five minutes or so.

The Avalanche worked a lot of other drills. Only the forwards were on the ice at 10:30, and not all of them at that. Center Matt Duchene participated in offense drills at the start of practice:

What looked like a very constructive drill came about midway through the practice. Avalanche players participated in drills to improve their work in the corners. Players really got physical in the corners. Watch defenseman Erik Johnson (in black) scrambling:

Nonetheless, the hard skating at the end of the practice is what fatigued the players. Afterwards, one of the skaters sprawled in the crease and was so still I thought he was a pile of equipment. Even the notoriously fit Matt Duchene just sat on the ice for awhile:

Matt Duchene sits on the ice after the bag skate.

The Avalanche don’t play again until Thursday, November 20, when they host the Washington Capitals, so they have plenty of time to recover.

They are participating in the Mile High Dreams Gala this evening, though.