The Colorado Avalanche officially entered into Return to Play when players practiced at the Pepsi Center in small, voluntary groups.
Colorado Avalanche players returned to Pepsi Center ice today to take part in skates. These informal practices are part of Phase 2 of the NHL’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Per Phase 2, which is the easing back for Return to Play , six players can be on the ice and in the facility at the same time. They may engage in no-contact activities. Coaches and trainers aren’t allowed on the ice, but they may be in the exercise rooms.
The Avalanche’s social media team isn’t allowed the access we’re used to, but they’re allowed access. Lord love us, they’re allowed to be up in the press box it seems. According to the Phase 2 mandates, only one member of a team’s media relations department can be in the building as the same time as players.
Here’s the first shot they shared today:
If you zoom in and look closely, you’ll see those little ants are actually Colorado Avalanche players! I count four on the ice and one on the bench. It also appears a couple trainers or other staff are near the ice watching the players.
We can see here that the very first player to enter into Phase 2 for the Avalanche by stepping onto the new sheet of Pepsi Center ice is Philipp Grubauer himself:
I love watching all goalies stretch, but I’ve never been so… grateful to see it in my life.
Ian Cole eventually made his way onto the ice:
If Kadri was in attendance, he didn’t end up on the Avalanche’s social media.
Now, both Cole and Donskoi are wearing white jerseys. However, in the first picture, only one Avalanche player is wearing a white jersey. Indeed, the team wrote that the players were in two groups. Since one picture shows Cole shooting on Grubauer, it seems Donskoi may have practiced alone.
He may be waiting for more Avalanche players to arrive in Denver. San Girard is here, but he didn’t appear to practice today. Maybe he and Donskoi will form a sextet later.
That’s video that was taken today! That’s Colorado Avalanche hockey, at least hockey drills, that took place today!
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I have to admit, I had a more emotional reaction to these posts than I expected. I knew I’d be excited. However, I didn’t realize I’d get teary-eyed. In these times of turmoil, a lot of us would value a chance to hold onto something from the pre-COVID world. These posts represent the smallest return to normalcy.
Ok, emotions aside, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare posted on Instagram that today was also his first return to ice in 12 weeks. It’s an Instagram story, so I can’t share it here. However, he was in Avs gear with his Avs gear bag in the first picture with the question, “First ice in 12 weeks — how bad can it get?” Hilariously, the second image is him frowning with the declaration, “Pretty bad!”
No one has said if it was Pepsi Center ice. Last he reported he was in Vegas where he has a home. NHL teams can make their facilities available to players from other clubs.
Andre Burakovsy also posted on Instagram today. He was playing a video game. He’s also been golfing a lot.
I’m not sure why the Colorado Avalanche are practicing at Pepsi Center instead of their usual training facility at South Suburban Parks and Recreation. The only rationale I can think of is that South Suburban is a facility that’s open to the general public so the safety bubble around players would be harder to maintain.
Anyway, Phase 3 is set to begin July 10. That’s when teams can start official training camps, which will probably last two or three weeks.