Training camps around the NHL are opening after another short period, the third in a row that the pandemic has curtailed. That doesn’t bother Colorado Avalanche star Nathan McKinnon a bit.
For one of hockey’s best players and teammates, it’s already time to get back on the ice and defend the Stanley Cup title, less than three months after they ousted back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I still feel like I was just playing,” McKinnon said. “I took a couple of weeks off, and then started skiing again. It’s just fun. I enjoy it, and I love short summers. It feels like the season is just kind of rolling in again.”
The NHL is entering a fall from an entertaining and final playoffs with a chance to finally return to the regular schedule. This means full boot camps for teams that get new coaches and the benefits of a regular routine.
That means just 88 days between game six of the final and the first snowboarding practice session.
We’re used to it now,” said Tampa Bay goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevsky, after he and Lightning lost in the final for the first time in three straight trips. “It’s a little more difficult, of course, because you don’t have much time to rest. It’s basically a few weeks and you have to go back to it. But, yeah, I can’t complain. You want your summer to be short every year.”
It took a little longer for Conor McDavid and Oilers after losing to Colorado in the Western Final. Although there is no downtime, McDavid is “not going to replace that with anything” and aims to make it even more since Edmonton strengthened its goal-oriented stance with the addition of Jack Campbell.
A few laps of the goalkeeper’s carousel ended with an avalanche possession of New York Rangers’ Alexander Georgiev and cup winner Darcy Quimper, who relegated to Washington. Joining his new teammates, many of whom lifted the World Cup in 2018, Kuemper isn’t concerned about reducing vacation time.
“It was definitely a very unique summer,” Comber said. “With the short duration, you start coming back to the gym and kind of worried that your training is going to be too short. But you kind of felt like you weren’t getting back in shape. You were already there.”
The Oilers are one of several teams that have settled into a training camp under a new coach. Jay Woodcroft took over as interim coach in February but has a full-time job now.
“I’m looking forward to camping with him,” McDavid said. “He’s done a great job mid-season, but it’s not easy for any coach, sure. I’m sure there were things he wanted to touch on that you weren’t able to do in the middle of the year, so he’ll be able to touch on all of that this year” .
The same goes for Bruce Boudreau in Vancouver, 11 months after taking charge of the Canucks. John Tortorella of Philadelphia, Jim Montgomery of Boston, Bruce Cassidy of Vegas, Peter Debor of Dallas, Paul Morris of Florida, Luke Richardson of Chicago, Derek Lalonde of Detroit and Lyn Lambert of New York Islanders all started their new jobs.
Approximately 40 players attend camp under a professional trial agreement with the opportunity to earn a contract for the season. James Neal has this opportunity with the Blue Jackets, and Derek Stepan is back in the Carolinas to look for a job with the Hurricanes.
The most intriguing position is 37-year-old Eric Stahl, who agreed to try out with Florida at the same time as brother Mark signed a one-year contract. Younger brother Jordan was accompanied by Eric and Mark at the 18th Pebble Beach Green to witness the event.
“Both are super pumping, as was I,” said Jordan Stahl, Hurricanes captain. “Eric is excited about the opportunity and Mark is too. Really cool. Something really cool.”
An early start
Before the disc drops in the North American NHL season on October 11, the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks play twice in Prague on October 7 and 8. This is not fair.
“We’re still playing two important matches,” said Sharks striker Thomas Hertl, a Prague native. “It’s not just the start of the season that I come here to warm up.”
Colorado and Columbus will also play two games in Tampere, Finland, on November 4-5 as part of the NHL World Series.
And just as the league gets used to a regular schedule, work continues between the league and the NHL Players Association to stage the Hockey World Cup in February 2024, which is common among players even if the calendar is halted again.
“I think they missed a big, huge part of the international game, which is really going to be missed,” MacDavid said. “We need to find a way to participate in an international tournament as quickly as possible.”