Photo by SportsEngine
The qualifications for the annual Colorado Combine have changed: What used to be an extensive vetting process to ensure the top high school hockey players in Colorado were evaluated has shifted to a simple first come, first served system where anyone can take the ice. There’s also lower stakes, as the top performers are no longer being referred to regional or national development camps.
The annual Colorado Combine, which had been delayed and has since been altered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to begin at the Sports Stable in Superior on July 30 and run through Aug. 2. This summer’s event is targeted toward boys and girls who were born between 2003 and 2006.
“I think this year it’s more of a let’s get back in the rink [situation]” said Adrian Veideman, an assistant coach at Valor Christian who has run the combine the last two years. “Everybody’s just been on edge about everything. The Avalanche have stepped up and they’re gonna help greatly.”
He added it should be a positive experience for kids who will be able to get onto the ice, have fun and be able to compete.
The four-day event will include drills on and off the ice. Each player gets a jersey, pant shell and socks, and will participate for three games. They’ll also participate in one day dedicated to dryland training. The third day of the camp will take place on the ice with full-contact scrimmages.
The event is designed to give evaluators a more general sense of a prospect’s athleticism — putting them through strength, speed and agility training, as well as a vertical jump — rather than just seeing players' hockey skills on skates. Staff from the Colorado Avalanche run many of the drills.
Aiden Owen, a Valor Christian defenseman who participated in the combine for the first time just a year ago, thought the event was well-organized and straightforward for the players.
He said he found last year's combine to be useful when comparing his performance to his peers.
“It was a really good experience — a great way to gauge what your level is against your peers and people in your age group,” he said. “It was really fun, too, getting to play a couple games with guys sometimes you don’t usually get to play against.”
Giving participants a measuring stick to see how they compare to their peers in the hockey world is a major goal of each combine. In previous combines, the top players from the camp would move on to a larger, regional combine. That’s no longer the case amid the pandemic.
There will be approximately 300 participants this year, a figure smaller than in past combines — another result of the pandemic. Due to the lower participation numbers, this summer’s combine is open to all players in the birth-year range. Previously, the camp was much more exclusive. Veideman estimated that he turned away over 100 kids from the 2019 combine because of the number of hopeful participants.
“There’s probably going to be more ice available because of the amount of drop-offs that we’ve had for the camp, but we’re still moving forward with it,” he said. “There’s just more ice up for grabs for kids during the event for games. Typically the parents like it, too, as an event because it’s fun to watch, running high-quality hockey.”
Even under far different circumstances than was originally planned for the event, Veideman has high hopes for this year’s combine. The advancement aspect is gone, lowering the stakes of the weekend somewhat, but for Veideman, any hockey played is a welcome sign.
“It’s almost like ‘ok, here’s an opportunity to just forget about it and get back into actually playing some games,” he said. “The past restrictions where the numbers have been so limited, it makes it difficult to even have games. It’s just a good opportunity and, again, we’ll try to keep a positive vibe and let the kids have fun.”
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