Vancouver Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom (25) makes a save as Chicago Blackhawks centre Jonathan Toews (19) looks on during first period NHL action in Vancouver on January 2, 2020. Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom is using a tennis ball machine as part of his training to stay sharp. But no matter the setup, NHL puck-stoppers are, at least on the surface, at a disadvantage when it comes to maintaining most of their physical skills during the novel coronavirus outbreak that forced the NHL to pause its season on March 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom (25) makes a save as Chicago Blackhawks centre Jonathan Toews (19) looks on during first period NHL action in Vancouver on January 2, 2020. Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom is using a tennis ball machine as part of his training to stay sharp. But no matter the setup, NHL puck-stoppers are, at least on the surface, at a disadvantage when it comes to maintaining most of their physical skills during the novel coronavirus outbreak that forced the NHL to pause its season on March 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

‘Knowledge and creativity’ the only training limitations for goalies in pandemic

Some suggest goalies go outside their comfort zone during the pandemic by incorporating new regimens

Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom is using a tennis ball machine as part of his training to stay sharp.

Columbus Blue Jackets counterpart Joonas Korpisalo doesn’t have that technology at his disposal during the COVID-19 pandemic, so a wall has had to do the trick.

Toronto Maple Leafs netminder Frederik Andersen, meanwhile, might have the best option of the bunch — he’s self-isolating with teammate and 47-goal man Auston Matthews.

“I have a pretty good shooter here,” Andersen joked.

But no matter the setup, NHL puck-stoppers are, at least on the surface, at a disadvantage when it comes to maintaining most of their physical skills during the novel coronavirus outbreak that forced the NHL to pause its season on March 12.

Unlike skaters, who might have a net in the driveway or the ability run through a stickhandling drill, goalies are having a hard time mimicking situations that even loosely resemble practice or game situations.

“We’re doing our best and working a lot on hand-eye,” Markstrom said. ”Don’t let your eyes fall asleep is a big thing.”

Winnipeg Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck has also been doing his best to stay on top of things during this unprecedented stoppage.

But it’s not easy.

“No one’s been through this before,” Hellebuyck said. ”There’s really no book, no right way. I’m not able to strap on the pads. That’s the most important part about being dialled in as a goalie, getting a feel and really getting the workload. Going for a run isn’t going to keep me in goaltender shape.”

“It’s definitely a challenge not to be able to go on the ice,” Andersen said. “In times like this where facilities are limited, it’s about trying to be creative.”

That’s why many goalies are leaning on their private trainers.

While a team’s strength and conditioning coach has to formulate programs for more than 20 players, people like Adam Francilia, whose NHL clients include the San Jose Sharks, Hellebuyck, Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk and Carolina’s James Reimer, develop plans specifically for netminders.

“In some cases they have really great home gyms at their disposal,” Francilia said. ”And then there’s some guys in a condo with nothing … but I have enough stuff in my repertoire that guys only need their body weight to train.”

READ MORE: Trudeau says too early to discuss ‘immunity passports’ for people recovered from COVID

Francilia, who focuses on long-term athlete development, said while the coronavirus shutdown is an overall negative, it’s presented an opportunity.

“Every goalie has little bits and pieces they can always work on, whether it’s related to a past injury or some imbalances or some biomechanical hiccups that you never get to during the season,” he said. ”The only limitation is knowledge and creativity.”

John Stevenson, a performance psychologist and former NHL goalie coach, said he always instructs his netminders to work on blocking outside noise.

The pandemic is no different.

“The coronavirus is an uncontrollable,” he said. ”We don’t have control over the uncontrollables, but we definitely have control over how we choose to respond.”

Stevenson, whose NHL list includes Washington’s Braden Holtby and Philadelphia’s Carter Hart, agreed with Francilia that the league’s pause opens doors for netminders.

But not all training is equal.

“A lot of goalies train hard,” he said. ”But they don’t all train smart.”

Stevenson, who had a two-hour call with an NHLer on Friday, counsels players on variety of skills, including mental rehearsal — he doesn’t like the term “visualization” — mindfulness meditations, cognitive perceptual training and breathing.

He suggests goalies go outside their comfort zone during the pandemic by incorporating new regimens.

“This is a great opportunity to go and try some things that you’ve never done before,” said Stevenson, who shared that Hart is looking to improve his juggling skills from four balls to five. ”This period of time could make some goalies better.”

Hellebuyck said he’s been watching highlights from the Vezina Trophy-worthy campaign he hopes to resume later this spring or in the summer.

“Try to kind of live in the moment with that.”

He added Francilia is constantly on his case about training, which includes detailed and varied videos demonstrating each exercise.

“He’s been contacting me more than I’ve been contacting him,” Hellebuyck said. ”He’s been on my tail trying to get me to work out pretty hard. It’s good, and I have been.”

Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson, who turns 39 next month, described the “mental battle” that comes with preparing for the resumption of a season that may or may not arrive.

“You just have to force yourself through it … it comes down to a mindset,” he said. ”It’s too early to tell which way this thing’s going to go. You just want to make sure you’re ready at any given moment.”

The other Andersen — Toronto’s netminder — said he’s doing his best to pretend he’s still in the middle of the season.

“You need to keep your mental focus on actually playing hockey even though you can’t be on the ice,” Andersen said. ”The videos have allowed me to keep that going.”

“I’ve been watching all the video clips from this season — all the games I’ve where I played well,” Korpisalo added. ”It reminds me of those good moments.”

Like many people self-isolating, Francilia said monotony can even get NHLers down. With that in mind, he’s tried to set short-term goals for his clients.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if we’re training to return,” he said. ”Think about this as exercising because you want to be a healthy individual. Try to widen your worldview. At the same time, these guys are so used to competing and becoming single-minded in their focus. I encourage them to also get excited. This is an opportunity in an otherwise pretty uneventful day to create that competitive moment.

“Here’s the moment these guys are starving for.”

___

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirushockeyNHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Black bear cubs Athena and Jordan look on from their enclosure at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington, B.C., on July 8, 2015. Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant won the hearts of animal lovers when he opted not to shoot the baby bears in July after their mother was destroyed for repeatedly raiding homes near Port Hardy, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Supreme Court quashes review of North Island conservation officer who refused to euthanize bears

Bryce Casavant was dismissed from his job for choosing not to shoot the cubs in 2015

Braden Holtby’s new mask designed in collaboration with Luke Marston and David Gunnarsson. (Mike Wavrecan photo)
QUINN’S QUIPS: Art is more than simple expression in First Nations culture

Indigenous artwork has a connection to its people, and vice versa

The Rogers Creek Trail main trailhead is located on the Redford Extension in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Hiker rescued after cold few hours in the bush outside Port Alberni

Alberni Valley Rescue Squad said they receive frequent calls for people lost on this trail

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

The cost of potentially counting deer regionwide was among the issues that prompted Capital Regional District committee members to vote against pursuing a greater CRD role in deer management. (Black Press Media file photo)
Expanded deer management a non-starter for Greater Victoria

Capital Regional District committee maintains current level of support

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Aquaculture employee from Vancouver Island, Michelle, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

Vancouver Island’s female aquaculture employees start #enoughisenough to address misogynistic comments aimed at them

Most Read