Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Nieto talks about what training camp and the playoffs can look like for the NHL’s Return to Play.
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Colorado Avalanche winger Matt Nieto appeared on Altitude TV’s Sports Social in what was the first time we’ve heard from him since the NHL season went on pause three months ago. In other words, we got proof of life.
And skill. Nieto is one of the known players to play video games, specifically Fortnight. However, according to his interview, he also used quarantine time to learn a new game — chess.
Anyway, he reveals on the show that he was already back in Denver and had been for the most of the pause. He did go back to California — he’s a Long Beach native, you know — because he could get some ice time.
He can get ice time in Denver now, too, which is probably why he’s back. He and all Avalanche players have access to Pepsi Center ice. In fact, Nieto says he’s already been practicing there.
He’s not part of the official sextet that’s been documented. According to Nieto, eight players are already back in Denver. Nieto thinks more players will “trickle in” as training camp gets closer. That’s slated to start July 10.
The training camp will be in teams’ home cities. Once the official play starts, though, teams will travel to one of two hub cities. Ten cities have thrown their hat into the ring as possible hosts.
According to Nieto, one has already been decided on — Las Vegas. I’m not sure if that’s going to hold as Vegas has opened back up and their COVID-19 cases are rising. That’s too bad because Vegas’ setup would make it ideal to host the playoff tournaments.
Colorado wouldn’t play there anyway. The NHL has said they’d prefer teams didn’t play in a city that’s in the conference. So, the Eastern Conference teams would be slated to play in Vegas anyway.
Nieto does reveal where the other city might be — Toronto. That would be Colorado’s hub city.
Concerning training camp itself, Nieto envisions it lasting two to three weeks. As he points out, since the season has been on pause so long, players will have to go over systems in addition to getting back into shape.
Anyway, Nieto does reveal his junk food weakness — Flaming Hot Cheetos. With Return to Play in the works, he probably better not indulge too often.
That said, he’s back to skating. He can always burn the calories off.
A point of contention for some fans, myself included, has been the round robin that the top eight teams will play for seeding. They’ll each play three games, one each against the other three top teams in their conference. I don’t necessarily have a problem with seeding getting decided that way. However, they’ll end up playing a team that just played for their lives to even make the playoffs.
Nieto somewhat addresses that:
"“We have a few short games to get sharp and to get where want to be playing-wise so that we feel confident going into that first round.”"
He also likes the playoff format, including the round robin. Concerning any return to play, Nieto says the following:
"“Everyone on the team is just excited to have the opportunity to finish the season.”"
Every single Avalanche player who’s talked during the pause has stated the same thing.
He does think it will be a little weird to play with no fans in the building. However, he doesn’t think it will be a problem:
"“Just the motivation to play and get a chance to win the Stanley Cup is all you really need to get yourself going.”"
I personally think it would be fun to see how broadcast teams handle showing the games with no audience. Not as much fun as going to playoff games, though.
Anyway, Matt Nieto is excited to get back to play — all the Colorado Avalanche players are. I’m excited, too.