Andrew Alberts has been around hockey for practically his entire life.
The former Boston Bruins defenseman has found a new area of hockey to explore now — the virtual kind. Alberts is the director of player development for Sense Arena, a cognitive development tool for hockey that relies on virtual reality.
He joined the RinkWise podcast to discuss Sense Arena and his days playing for the Bruins, Flyers, Hurricanes and Canucks in the NHL.
A product of Boston College, Alberts is a Minnesota native who was drafted in the sixth round by the Bruins in 2001.
On training hockey players with virtual reality:
“If you haven’t done VR, (when you do) you’re fully immersed in an environment. Our environment is obviously a hockey rink because we’re working in hockey skills. And it’s more or less, SenseArena is a cognitive, physical training platform. You are within a VR headset. For the player version, we have a haptic stick mount that goes on your stick. Your stick will vibrate when the puck touches your stick. So, catching passes, shooting the puck. We’re not necessarily a shooting tool or stickhandling tool, but a great passing tool and obviously a cognitive tool. So what we can do is we can recreate situations, game scenarios to provide you reps that you can only get during practice or can only get during games or scrimmages. So to recreate a practice with game scenario drills, you need obviously your teammates and the opposition and to be going through the repetitions. Now we can do that within the headset through different drills — so you’re actually getting game reps.”
On his introduction to the NHL:
“If you could position yourself in the middle of (Interstate) 93 (in Boston) when cars are going 75 (mph) right by you, that’s what it was like. Just because, you go from a college game where our average height at BC was probably 5-foot-8 if we’re lucky, right? And even Hockey East is smaller in general compared to the WCHA. And now you’re playing against men. Not to say that college guys aren’t men, but now you’re playing against men. You’re playing for money, for your job, for your career. You’re playing for your next contract every shift. So for me it was a whirlwind, but it’s also like my dream is coming true at the same time. So I didn’t sleep for three days before my first game. I had a deal set up with Boston, which I was lucky that I was able to finish school — because that was very important to me. So I go back and forth, Providence (Bruins) and BC.”