In one of the most bizarre moments in recent sports history, the NBA’s shutdown just before tip-off of the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder game on March 11 altered the fortunes of the NHL and the world as we know it.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert was diagnosed with COVID-19 moments before the game was set to begin. The NBA quickly halted that game and postponed its season.
Meanwhile, at the Pepsi Center, the Avalanche were in warmup for a matchup against the New York Rangers. With the thoughts of the NHL following the NBA and stopping its season lingering over their heads, the Avs had to remain focused knowing that this would likely be their last game for the foreseeable future.
“We were all made aware of the NBA shut down during that pre-game and as our game was getting ready to start,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said on a conference call Thursday. “It was pretty abrupt just as we were getting ready for that game at home.”
Colorado defeated the Rangers 3-2 in overtime but was mired in uncertainty after the game. The NHL eventually announced a pause to their season the following morning. At that time, the Avalanche were two points back of the St. Louis Blues with a game in hand.
The pause occurred with 12 games remaining on the schedule. A year ago today, Colorado was preparing for Game 4 against the Calgary Flames in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“Our message was to keep going the way we were going until we get information that says otherwise. Certainly, when the news came out that the NBA was going to pause in their season, we felt like that would probably be something we would do as well,” Bednar said. “The guys did a great job of staying focused and then we got the news the next morning that we would be taking a break as well. I commend our guys for being able to stay focused during that time… It shows the professionalism of our guys and the players around the league on other teams that were in that same circumstance.”
Bednar also acknowledged the NHL’s tentative plans to resume the regular-season and playoffs to award a 2020 Stanley Cup champion. He says the Avs, who are second in the Western Conference (42-20-8, 90 points), “will need two weeks or less” to prepare for in-game action.
“In an ideal world we would like to come in and continue with the season and the playoffs,” Bednar added. “That would be the best-case scenario for us. We are still hopeful that can happen.”
The coach said the three Avalanche players who tested positive are each feeling better. He is in isolation at his Colorado home with his wife.
Bednar also says he and his players are both treating this like an offseason. While the coach reviews the season’s first 70 games, specifically the last couple of months, his players are doing their part to stay in shape for a possible return to play.