ENGLEWOOD - It had been 18 months since the Colorado Avalanche last took the ice, thanks to the lockout that erased the 2004-05 NHL season, but there was no thought of easing back into a routine Tuesday. During their first day of training camp at the South Suburban Family Sports Center, Colorado players went through an intense practice that included a full-speed, hour-and-a-half scrimmage. “The pace was terrific,” said Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville, who was hired before the lost season but had to wait until Tuesday for his first official practice. “I thought the energy and how they competed was real high. So it was a pretty demanding first day, the workload pretty According to Quenneville, it will be that way all week. And it has to be that way, really. Colorado has three days of training camp and its annual Burgundy/White scrimmage Friday before opening its exhibition season Saturday against Dallas at the Pepsi Center. That is one of just six preseason contests. “There’s not a lot of time to work,” veteran center Joe Sakic said. That makes things especially difficult this year. The Avalanche had just days of training camp and its scrimmage before opening its preseason schedule in 2003, but then the team didn’t face the hurdles it does now — shaking off the rust from a long layoff, adjusting to significant rule changes and attempting to build chemistry with a new coach, a roster full of new faces and the absence of franchise cornerstones Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote. Because of those challenges, and because the Avalanche has 43 players on its training camp roster — approximately 15-20 fewer than in the past — veteran players will get more work. “We don’t have a lot of time,” right winger Dan Hinote said. “So coaches want to see us on the ice as much as possible.” That will include preseason games, Quenneville said. “It’s not going to be an audition in the exhibition season, like we did in the past,” he said. “We’re looking to look at our team early and work with it.” While training camp is not usually looked upon fondly by players, this year has been different. According to Hinote, players arrived in Denver early, and almost the entire team was in town and skating a week before the start of camp. And because of the lockout, there was a different excitement and intensity on the ice Tuesday. “It feels great,” defenseman John-Michael Liles said. “The scrimmage today was at a real good pace. I think everyone’s really excited to be back. . . . I think everyone’s in pretty good shape. Everyone was looking forward to coming back so much that they really tried to get ready.” That was evident Tuesday. “The guys pushed themselves right to the end,” Quenneville said. “I was thrilled by the end of the day about how well it went.” Video presentation On Monday, Avalanche players viewed a videotape prepared by the NHL that covers the rule changes the league has made. The players gave the rules, which are designed to increase scoring chances and make the game more exciting for fans, good reviews. But most attached this caveat: as long as the rules are enforced. “That’s the concern we’re all having,” said forward Alex Tanguay, one of the players who stands to benefit if the rules are enforced. “We saw the video Monday, and from what they showed, it’s going to be applied to the rules. But who knows how long they’re going to do it. Hopefully they can last the whole season.” The NHL has tried to open up the game and enforce obstruction calls in the past. This year, according to Quenneville, referees will “start calling it the way it’s written.” On Monday, the coach joked that there could be “25-30 power plays” in the first exhibition game. Tanguay, and others, will wait and see. Wolski watch Wojtek Wolski, Colorado’s first choice in the 2004 entry draft, was the most impressive of Colorado’s young players on the first day of camp. “The Wolski kid, I thought, had a real strong day,” Quenneville said. “He looked pretty comfortable. . . . He looks like a first-round pick. He’s got some good instincts.” The 19-year-old Wolski, a left winger from Poland, was the 21st selection in 2004. Camp open to public The Avalanche will skate today and Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0365 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Colorado Springs Gazette has disabled the comments for this article.