There is nothing like the start of a new season. It doesn’t matter what the sport is. Each has its own unique sense, feel, sounds, and even smell. I have attended all the Colorado Avalanche training camps. The camps usually start the second week in September. I am often struck by the familiar attributes of hockey camp. I have always enjoyed the feeling of walking into the chilliness of the rink after being in the heat of the outside. There is something special about each year when I park my car and walk, basking in the summer sun, toward the door that leads into the building that hosts the camp. I love opening that door for several reasons. First is the blast of cold air that always hits me. Second are the sounds of hockey. The slap of the stick hitting the puck. The thwack of the puck hitting the boards or the glass. The crunching noise of players crashing into each other and ramming into the boards. I can stand in the lobby, hear those sounds and it brings a smile to my face.
Hockey training camps have their own smell. I am not talking about the horrific gunk stench from a bag of used hockey equipment. It just smells different from other sports. Football has the heat of summer mixed with grass and the player’s equipment. Baseball has its wonderful spring air and the smell of leather gloves and wooden bats on a beautiful day. Hockey is different. It is a combination of cold, sweat, and anger.
The best part of training camp is always the unmitigated hope. Every season brings newness and the belief that maybe, just maybe it might be the year for a Stanley Cup. It is that contagious outlook that puts an extra spring in the step of everyone in the organization. All feel fresh and positive and believe that it could go their way and work out as they hoped. Rookies think they may play well enough to make the big team. Veterans are young again, and feel as if they can fly on the ice. Coaches and management believe that if everything goes according to plan there might be reason to have a parade route mapped out. That feeling permeates the building and I feel it when I walk in the first day of camp.
We all love a new beginning, perhaps a second chance. That is what hockey training camps are all about. I have always relished the chance to see a rising star emerging out of those early practices. There is the opportunity to watch a wily vet showing off his moves. There inevitably is the older player, coming from another team, hoping to make an impression and hang on for another season. All those sites bring comfortableness to attending another training camp. I enjoy talking to the fans wanting to discuss their favorite players and share with me their hope for a winning season.
No one likes to get old, we all want to stay young. Going to the Avalanche training camp each season makes me feel young again. The players might come and go and the people might change but the best part of training camp hockey remains the same. It is a time to feel excitement for the future and the wonder of what might be possible.