(Denver) Stuart Skinner of the Edmonton Oilers sometimes turns to the chessboard to control the frantic flow of thoughts racing through his brain. All you need to relax and not constantly dwell — perhaps to the point of becoming obsessed — with stopping shots.
In an attempt to get away from their high-pressure job, goalkeepers take different approaches. It could be playing chess (Skinner), reading a good book (Alexandar Georgiev, of the Colorado Avalanche), watching a series on Netflix (Antti Raanta, of the Carolina Hurricanes) or walking the dog (Philipp Grubauer, from the Seattle Kraken).
It’s about finding a way to slow things down to make sure their dreams aren’t haunted by high-velocity shots from Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon or David Pastrnak.
Because at this time of year, every successful stop — or failed stop — matters. Remembering goals can become a professional hazard.
“That balance of not playing hockey 24/7 is really important for their mental health, because they have to learn how to deal with stress,” says Aimee Kimball, a mental training consultant who has worked 16 seasons in the NHL and is currently Director of Organizational Development for the Washington Capitals.
“If all you’ve done is eat and sleep and dream about hockey, when your career ends or you get injured, it’s harder to move on to the next phase of life. Having hobbies, other interests, it’s really important, not only at the moment, but also when the player’s career is over. »
To forget the shots on goal, Pavel Francouz, of the Avalanche, turned to aviation. He got his pilot’s license while playing in the Czech Republic and it became his ticket to peace.
“When you’re up high, you realize how small things are,” says Francouz. “It gives you a different view of things. »
Since moving to Colorado, his pilot’s license has expired. Today, the time spent with her family with her young daughter allows her to keep her feet on the ground.
“If you show up at home, she doesn’t care if you just won or lost. She still loves you the same and wants to play,” Francouz remarks. “It’s the best way for me to not think about hockey. »
Skinner, too, has a kid at home, and his son, Beau, is a welcome distraction.
Skinner also started learning chess about a year ago while playing with the Bakersfield Condors of the American League. He saw some boys with a chess board and wanted to participate to “find some peace”.
“I always thought chess seemed too complicated,” Skinner said. “Now I’m having a blast. »
Skinner isn’t looking to become the next Bobby Fischer; just to take your mind off things. The game changed that.
“A little reset,” Skinner said. “Anything that has nothing to do with hockey, just to put your mind off the save you did or didn’t make. Little things like that. »
Kimball has a trick to take your mind off things.
“I usually tell them every time they change shoes or skates, in that situation, change their lens,” she said. “If you’re on the ice or off the ice, when you take your shoes off, you’re home. It’s a quick and easy way to transition from one aspect of your life to another. »
Georgiev picks up a novel to get away from hockey. Her goal is to read — or listen to — 24 books this year. He has already completed five.
“I have always read a lot. But usually it was either newspapers, or I was wasting my time on Reddit or Instagram, or I listened to a lot of podcasts,” says Georgiev.
“Then I decided to set myself a goal and try to finish a few books. It’s like a game. You set a goal and track your progress. This allows you to take responsibility and be competitive. »
Recently, he read a book about the benefits of sleep and how it stimulates creativity.
“I feel like reading helps to relax and take your mind off things,” says Georgiev. “We don’t think about hockey anymore. »
Raanta is a movie and series lover. He also plays Xbox if the kids aren’t running around.
For Grubauer, a walk with the dog can help put into perspective what he does for a living.
“Obviously it’s important, it’s our field and it’s our job,” Grubauer said. “But at the end of the day, it’s just a hockey game. »