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Flames coach Ward's been preparing for NHL's Phase 3 for months

Calgary Flames head coach Geoff Ward won a Stanley Cup as a member of the Boston Bruins coaching staff back in 2011.
Calgary Flames head coach Geoff Ward won a Stanley Cup as a member of the Boston Bruins coaching staff back in 2011.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Geoff Ward’s days have been filled.

Like most in his profession, the head coach of the Calgary Flames craves routine and even without the regular grind of the National Hockey League, he designed his work schedule — along with the rest of the coaching staff — to maintain a semblance of normalcy.

Most recently, that has included training camp preparations for his team ahead of the National Hockey League’s Phase 3.

Without access to the Flames — part of the Phase 2 mandate which featured optional skates for players and no coaches or team personnel other than trainers and medicals staff are allowed — Ward has carefully designed and planned every day leading up to the kickstart of Phase 4 and their best-of-five series against the Winnipeg Jets.

This is unlike any other summer, or NHL season for that matter.

But that’s what makes Ward’s job so crucial.

“We want to make sure we’re paying attention to pace, we’re paying attention to conditioning, work habits and all sorts of things we would normally pay attention to in a normal training camp,” Ward said prior to Monday’s first day of training camp. “Normally, we get three days before we play our first exhibition game, so this is going to be a little bit longer.”

Twenty-four NHL teams are set to travel to two centralized hub cities on July 26 to complete Phase 3 and prepare for Phase 4, which begins on Aug. 1.

For the Flames, that means 13 full days of skating in their own facility before heading to Edmonton to enter the ‘bubble,’ where they’ll practice another six before the official restart.

No exhibition games. No getting their feet wet. No easing into it.

It’ll be full-on, let’s go, drop the puck …

“We feel like the time to prepare is adequate from a coaches standpoint,” Ward said. “I’m actually looking forward to having almost three weeks before we’re playing a game. In that regard, it would be like we’re used to seeing in Europe where training camp is a little longer before you start playing. In that aspect, I think this is going to allow us to prepare players. We feel we have enough time to touch on everything we need to touch on.”

The simulation of game pace and game conditions will be important, which is why Ward has pencilled in scrimmages between the players.

Training camp this year is a marathon, not a sprint, especially without an exhibition schedule, but it’s important to keep in mind that their play-in round against the Jets is a tall task right off the hop.

Meaning that the coaching staff needs to get players up to speed right away. And that, obviously, will be dictated by the players’ efforts.

“We’re definitely going to play,” Ward said of scheduling intrasquad matches. “I think, right now, we have an idea was our training camp is going to look like the time that we’re here (in Calgary). But saying that, probably after the first two days, when we get to see what everyone is looking like and how they’re responding to what we’re doing, then it’s up for adjustment or juggling.

“I don’t think we can say anything is going to be set in stone, other than the first two days. But we have an idea where we want to go with it. We feel like playing is a huge piece to being ready at the end of training camp. But the days and times we choose to do that, it’ll be determined on a daily basis after that.”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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