Colorado Avalanche: Considering the Return-to-Play Schedule

The Colorado Avalanche are set to start Phase 3 on Monday as the NHL navigates the turbulent waters of their Return-to-Play protocol.

The Colorado Avalanche are well into their Phase 2 of the NHL’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. All the regular NHLers have returned to Denver to participate in the unofficial practices at the team facilities. So have some of the prospects who will be black aces for the playoffs.

In a continued response to the crisis, the NHL has shifted some dates slightly. Here were the original dates:

  • July 10: Training camp begins
  • July 23-24: Teams travel to hub cities
  • July 25: Exhibition games
  • July 30: Qualifying rounds begin

Some of those dates have remained the same. The NHL has also expanded the timeline:

Additionally, the date for the training camp have been moved back to July 13.

With as much as the Colorado Avalanche have been working the informal practices, they don’t need such a long training camp anyway. They all seem to have gotten their ice legs back — even the ones who didn’t find ice time much during the quarantine.

For the Avalanche, the training camp will be about working out the kinks on a thoroughly healthy team. They’ll want to run through different line combination possibilities. They’ll need to work on their special teams, too.

I think the training camp for Colorado will be a chance for certain players to shine. For some bubble players, they’ll get the opportunity to show why they deserve a spot. For some of the prospects, they’ll have a chance to show why they should be a first “callup.”

Here’s the challenge: The majority of the teams are coming into the Phase 3 healthy, having gotten over injuries and even surgeries that would have otherwise kept them out. The challenge will be to stay healthy long enough to get into Phase 4, which will see them in the playoff bubble.

I’m not talking about injuries at training camp. For the duration of Phase 3, the players are still out in the world. They’ll be advised to limit outside contact as much as possible, but that level will vary team by team and player by player.

The unfortunate situation is for those teams in hot spots — specifically Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Vegas. COVID-19 is so rampant down there, they pretty much have to self-quarantine to keep themselves safe.

When you have the resources, self-quarantine isn’t that challenging. They can afford to order all their supplies in. However, some of the younger players may have trouble with that directive.

Luckily for the Avalanche, Colorado has had a good response to the pandemic. We’ve seen a slight uptick in positive cases as the state opened up, but out government has been on top of the situation. The players, even the young ones, should be able to keep themselves safe for the duration of Phase 3.

For those of you who are still suggesting the league just shut the whole thing down to preserve the players’ well-being, I offer you the following:

I bet they’re a lot happier in those moments than most of us. Let them play.

The Colorado Avalanche will probably have one more informal practice before training camp starts on Monday.