#2: Altitude Provides an Edge
Pepsi Center is at one mile high. Photo credit: Nadia Archuleta
Let’s start considering some sports reasons for staying in Colorado. After all, Erik Johnson is a man’s man sort of, ah, man, so maybe he doesn’t care about creature comforts like warmth and beauty. Let’s consider the very real advantage living at a high altitude gives an athlete.
The most obvious observation is that playing home games at altitude gives players an advantage over opponents as the visitors gasp and try to get air at one mile high. Altitude sickness is no joke. If you’re not acclimated, you get lethargic and nauseated, especially during exertion.
On the flip side, exerting yourself at altitude when you’re acclimated only yields the effects natural to your fitness level. If you’re fit, you’re fine.
Actually, if you’re fit at altitude, you’re more than fine. Your body becomes accustomed to doing more (exercise) with less (oxygen.) In fact, the body produces more red blood cells to compensate for the lack of oxygen. This actually increases an athlete’s strength, giving him a competitive advantage that lasts up to two weeks away from altitude.
Granted, the Avalanche occasionally have road trips longer than two weeks, but this still gives EJ and the other Avs an edge the majority of the time.
(Full disclosure, the studies of how altitude affects athletic performance are not complete. However, the science is solid.)