Pavel Francouz is using virtual reality to stay sharp with the NHL season paused due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
"It is tough to stay in a good shape at 中国体彩官方app, not being on the ice," the Colorado Avalanche goalie said from his 中国体彩官方app in Pilsen, Czech Republic, on Friday. "Catching pucks on the ice is a physical activity that is hard to substitute. But I am trying to work on the mental side of things with a different set of tools. I have some computer trainings where you can simulate pressure and quick decision-making."
By using modern technology, Francouz is making sure his reactions and reflexes remain intact for when he returns to the ice.
"One part of the training is just on a regular computer, the other one is in virtual reality," he said. "It is not directly connected to hockey, being more of a brain training where you have to evaluate different situations really quickly. That should simulate mental tensions like the ones that you have in goal during games."
Virtual reality is a tool on a rise in sports training, being used by NFL teams or players and promoted by former quarterback Trent Edwards. It has not been used by every team, but some hockey players and goalies have added it to their practice routines. For Francouz, putting on special glasses and headphones is a good option during the pause, which began March 12.
"One such practice unit is that you look at different shapes, blinking several ways and as quickly as possible you have to choose one of the rankings options that is correct," Francouz said. "So you have to use your memory and quick decisions at the same time.
"Then there are different games. Like when you have a bat in your hand and there are four spots from which a ball can get to you. The ball is slowing down, speeding up ... and one teammate is showing up. So you have to hit the ball that gets to you from different spots and send it to the place where the teammate showed up. This has all been made to model sport situations for your brain. And it really is able to stimulate your brain, so I think it is really helpful."
Video: COL@ANA: Francouz boosts Avs with first NHL shutout
After Philipp Grubauer sustained a lower-body injury on Feb. 15, Francouz started 12 of the 13 games for the Avalanche before the pause and was 8-2-2 with a 2.37 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. In his first full NHL season, Francouz is 21-7-4 with a 2.41 GAA, .923 save percentage and one shutout in 36 games (31 starts).
Francouz, who could have become an unrestricted free agent after the season, signed a two-year contract with Colorado on Feb. 21. The 29-year-old is a big reason the Avalanche (42-20-8) are in second place in the Central Division, two points behind the St. Louis Blues.
"I would like to get on the ice as soon as possible," Francouz said. "It has been about a month [since] I had my skates on the last time. I have an exercise bike at 中国体彩官方app, trying to do all those things I said to be ready mentally and physically. I hope I will be ready. And when we come back, I want to prove that [the Avalanche] made no mistake when they gave me a new contract.
"The whole team and I were in a good [rhythm]. Obviously, we are disappointed that [the season is paused]. But we have to make sure everyone is safe and healthy and do all we can to be ready."