When fans in Denver think of a team with two world championships training in Dove Valley, they think of the Denver Broncos. This week, they’d only have been half right.
Training camp hasn’t quite started yet, so Dove Valley is a deserted complex, a strangely quiet expanse of top-notch exercise equipment, video rooms, and field turf. It’s an empty cafeteria under bright lights, a room full of empty lockers where jerseys and helmets will soon hang.
Into that world strolled the Colorado Avalanche, looking for a new way to train, working their way toward the top of the NHL.
Oct 26, 2014; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon (29) skates on the ice prior to the game against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports
A few dozen Avalanche players, most of them young prospects and recent draft picks, invaded Dove Valley to try their hand at an NFL workout. The size and scope of the building itself must have left them with wide eyes; even the NHL’s top buildings don’t compare to the NFL, a Juggernaut that basically prints its own money.
These are world-class athletes, though, and they quickly put that behind them and began training. They pushed the sled, ran sprints on the turf. They put down cones, did agility drills, and timed each other while sprinting through a shuttle run.
When everyone is a world-class player, it’s often the diet or the few extra reps in the gym that puts one above the other.
So different than a workout on crisp ice, they pushed themselves through the drills and fought to show each other up. The choppy cutting of skates was replaced by the pounding of cleats. The heavy pads and helmets were swapped out for shorts and t-shirts. But still, at its heart, this was just another workout, and they threw themselves into it.
At the end, they hit up the cafeteria. They learned about nutrition and meals that can fuel an athlete—lean meals like grilled chicken. They were taught about recovery shakes that can help them get back in top form after a hard workout. Gasping for breath, it was just what they needed.
Not all of this was new to all of them, but these are crucial points that sometimes go overlooked. When everyone is a world-class player, it’s often the diet or the few extra reps in the gym that puts one above the other.
The Broncos have certainly been one of the best teams in the NFL for the last few years, and they’re one of the more successful football franchises of all time. The Avalanche have had plenty of success on their own, but they seek to emulate the Broncos recent run of victories.
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Plus, it just helps to change it up. When you’re skating and stick-handling day in and day out, it’s easy to just go through the motions. By throwing the hockey players into this other world, the coaches found a way to push them to be their best. Any edge counts, and if a day in Dove Valley can whip these players into shape, it’s only going to help.
The athletic community in Denver is huge and largely intertwined. Though fans may have their favorite teams and favorite sports, the community as a whole is working together. And that’s huge, because it’s the type of dedication that can get all of the teams, in all leagues, to the top.
When the Avalanche take the ice next year, it will be with a new knowledge and a new outlook, and they’ll be ready to dominate the competition in a way the other side has likely not trained for at all.