The Avalanche’s Awkward August – Preseason, Prep & Update

The Colorado Avalanche had a fairly quiet August, at least compared to July. But fear not – there is still a fair amount of good, bad, and ugly to breakdown. If you pay attention, you might even find a pirate reference. Anything is possible.

The Good – Preseason, Tickets and More

Hockey is back!

September ushers in rookie camp, the rookie showcase, regular training camp and then preseason games. It’s kind of like Christmas. One gets to look at the prospects, the AHL players, the young guys trying to make the team, the new players added over the summer and see how it all fits together. It’s like unwrapping Christmas presents. Some are fruitcake and others are Ferraris

Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche celebrate the start of training camp (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

The Avalanche public relations department gets a shout out as they departed from previous years and gave plenty of notice on dates for rookie camp as well as the roster. They also gave a fair amount of notice for training camp. Although, not the roster. Baby steps.

Joe Sakic, apparently frustrated with the lack of progress on re-signing restricted free agent forward Mikko Rantanen, reached out to him directly. Ostensibly, he was checking in to see how Rantanen’s summer was going.

However, he was able to confirm Rantanen is interested in a long-term deal with the Avalanche. Whether or not the team and the player have the same idea as to what qualifies as “long-term”, no one knows. Sakic being proactive is good, and Rantanen wanting a long-term deal is good. Let’s just take the win.

The Avalanche started offering creative ticket packages, combining five and six-game ticket deals with such outrageous ideas as the “Bunch of Jerks Pack”, the “What Did You Say” pack, the “Not-So-Fairweather” pack, the “Tip of the Cap” pack, and the “Cue the Music” pack.  

It’s an entertaining way to offer fans a chance to dip their toes in the ticket waters. It’s also a big move away from the overused and less imaginative approach the team previously employed. Sometimes change is good. Except for division rivalry night. Then, quit selling tickets to the opponents. Really. Other teams do it. It’s ok. There may even be a gift basket in your future.

On a more serious note, the Avalanche were “major” contributors to the Humboldt Memorial Golf Fundraiser. Coach Bednar initiated the charity event last summer to raise money for the survivors and family members of the Humboldt bus crash.

In case you live in a cave, the Saskatchewan junior hockey team was on their way to a playoff game when they got t-boned by a semi on Apr. 8, 2018. 16 people on the bus were killed, including the coach and 11 of the players. The 13 surviving players sustained a wide range of injuries, from head trauma to varying degrees of paralysis.

Members of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team
Members of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

The hockey community initially poured out support for the survivors and the bereaved. But the media has moved on while the need continues. Many of the survivors still require ongoing care. For the Avalanche to continue to support the families a year later shows a greater depth of commitment – and character. It makes one proud to support the Avalanche.

On a much lighter note, it’s September. And the best of all goods – hockey is back! The boys are back in town and games are on the horizon. Now if only one could watch them.

The Bad – Valeri Nichushkin

One of the more questionable moves of the summer happened in August. The Avalanche signed Russian forward Valeri Nichushkin.  Which begs the question – why? Were the three other veteran forwards added in the offseason insufficient? Were the Avalanche trying to kill the hopes of their young forward prospects with an obvious kick in the teeth? Were they trying to balance their propensity for adding fringe blueliners by adding a fringe forward?

Valeri Nichushkin Dallas Stars
Valeri Nichushkin signed with the Avalanche after getting bought out by the Stars. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The silver lining is Nichushkin signed for a one year $850,000 contract, which is inexpensive. However, it’s also important to note Dallas Stars bought him out after his 10-point performance in 2018-19. He may break through and prove everyone wrong. But the Avalanche have just as talented options in their pipeline. Maybe the front office got bored with summer? Did someone grab the GM keys while Sakic was on vacation? It’s just an unnecessary distraction to start the season and that’s bad.

The Ugly – Rantanen’s Status, Blackouts and Sass

Rantanen’s contract did not get done in August. As it is, he will miss the start of training camp and it’s anybody’s guess when he will sign. If he’s waiting on Mitch Marner, it could be a long season.

Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen
Mikko Rantanen won’t be smiling when makes up the missed conditioning drills. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

But what will be really ugly – and fun – will be watching him do all the make-up conditioning drills and bag skates with the team watching. Bednar is a stickler for holding everyone to the same standard and Rantanen won’t escape. As long as I don’t have to clean up the ice, this will be the kind of ugly that provides entertainment for all – except Rantanen, of course. It’s something to look forward to, at least.

Comcast, DirecTV and Dish have all blacked out the Altitude channel (thus Avalanche games) after their contracts expired and negotiations failed. The fans are the big losers here and the dispute is just ugly. It’s not like any of the cable/satellite carriers isn’t making a profit on their nearly $200/month bill to consumers.

Altitude has very few other options. The Big Three carriers have been pushing to consolidate control/ownership of a number of regional sports networks so this could go awhile. Or, it could end tomorrow. Who knows?

Altitude Sports logo
Altitude Sports, Colorado Avalanche broadcast partners, is blacked out in a 10-state region.

For those who live locally, it might actually be cheaper to buy tickets to the game. Nose bleed seats start as low as $15 per game, which is less expensive than the cable bill during the season. Of course, that doesn’t cover away games.

A truly enterprising individual could take a page from the pirate code and find another way to watch the games and maybe earn a little extra money in the process. That thought should sober up both sides of the argument.

What to Watch

The Avalanche start training camp on Friday, Sep. 13 and it runs through Monday, Sep. 16. There will be two groups of players training at Family Sports Center and it is open to the public. Check the Avalanche website for times, as they vary a bit.

Preseason games follow, with the schedule below:

Tuesday, Sept. 17 – Vegas Golden Knights vs. the Avalanche, 7 P.M. MST at the Pepsi Center.

Saturday, Sept. 21 – the Avalanche visit the Minnesota Wild with a 4 P.M. MST start, at the Xcel Energy Center.

Sunday, Sept. 22 – the Avalanche return home to host the Wild with a 5 P.M. MST start in Denver.

Thursday, Sept. 19 – the Dallas Stars faceoff against the Avalanche, 7 P.M. MST at the Pepsi Center.

Wednesday, Sept. 25 – the Avalanche take on the Golden Knights in Vegas with an 8 P.M. MST start at the T-Mobile Arena.

Saturday, Sept. 28 – the Dallas Stars will host the Avalanche at the American Airlines Center at 4 P.M. MST.

The Avalanche start their regular season with a home opener on Oct. 3, against the dreaded Calgary Flames. In less than three weeks, the Avalanche regular season begins. Time to rejoice!

Now, if only everyone can watch the games.