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Getting Unplugged: How Hockey Goalies Are Using Chess, Books, and Netflix To Relax

by Joshua Brown
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To relax his busy mind, Edmonton’s hockey goalie Stuart Skinner sometimes plays chess. This helps him take a break and not worry too much about blocking the incoming shots.

Goalies are trying to have a break from their intense jobs by doing different activities. For example, some play chess (Skinner), read books (Colorado’s Alexandar Georgiev ), watch TV shows on Netflix (Antti Raanta from Carolina) or take their dog for a walk (Seattle’s Philipp Grubauer).

Goalies have to find ways to slow down the game so their dreams won’t be filled with scary shots from famous players like Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon and David Pastrnak. Every save or mistake at this time is more important than ever, which can lead to thinking about goals all the time.

Aimee Kimball, a mental training consultant who has been working in the NHL for 16 seasons and is currently the director of organizational development for the Washington Capitals, said that it’s really important for hockey players to have time away from hockey. This helps them manage their stress and learn how to transition when their playing career is over. Having hobbies and other interests besides hockey makes life after hockey much easier.

To relax and take a break from his job as an Avalanche goalie, Pavel Francouz decided to learn how to fly. So, he got himself a pilot’s license while he was still in the Czech Republic. While up in the sky, he said it made him feel small and think differently about some things. Unfortunately, since moving to Colorado, he hasn’t been able to fly anymore. Now he spends his free time with his daughter – that keeps him on the ground!

When Francouz arrives home after a game, his mom doesn’t care about the result. It doesn’t matter if he won or lost- she loves him all the same and just wants to spend time with him. This is how Francouz can take a break from hockey now.

Skinner has a son called Beau and he uses him as a ‘welcome distraction’ from his gaming. He started getting into chess about a year ago while playing professional hockey with the Bakersfield Condors team. He joined in because he wanted to feel relaxed and have some fun, even though it’s quite complex!

Skinner isn’t trying to become a famous chess player like Bobby Fischer, he just wants a break from life’s pressures. It has made a big difference.

“It gives me a chance to take my mind off things, like if I made or missed an important save in hockey,” Skinner said.

Kimball had some advice for how to switch your mind off and relax.

When it comes to transitioning between skating and not skating, I often tell them to change their focus. Taking off your shoes is like going home and starting a brand new life.

Rudy Georgiev is trying to improve his reading skills this year by finishing 24 books already! He has already finished five of them!

Georgiev said that they used to spend a lot of time on social media, reading newspapers, and even listening to podcasts. But then they decided to try something new, and set themselves a goal to read more books. This way, it became like a game for them where tracking their progress motivated them and kept them accountable. Recently, Georgiev was finding out about the effects sleeping has on one’s creativity through the book they were reading.

Georgiev said that reading is a great way to relax and take your mind off of hockey. Laurent Brossoit, the Vegas goaltender, likes to spend time in his backyard and cook meals when he needs to decompress from the game. He also enjoys watching shows like ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’ to keep his mental health in check.

Raanta admitted that he had been pushing himself too hard with sports and school. He said he had decided to work really hard at the gym, on the ice, and at home stretching out, but it left him exhausted with hardly any time for fun. Raanta enjoys watching movies and TV shows occasionally, as well as playing Xbox when his kids aren’t around.

Going for a walk with his dog helps Philipp Grubauer keep the important things in life into perspective. He knows that hockey is an important job, but he also realizes it’s still just a game in the end.

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