Las Vegas Sun

July 25, 2021

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Golden Knights unveil virtual reality experience at City National Arena


Vegas Golden Knights

Sun reporter Justin Emerson helplessly tries to score on a digital goalie while sampling the VGK VR experience at City National Arena on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019.

If you’ve ever wondered how hard it is to pass the puck to a streaking teammate or how difficult it can be to rip a one-timer past the goalie, the Golden Knights have a solution for you.

The team launched VGK VR on Thursday, a virtual reality simulation at City National Arena that puts fans into the action. The technology comes via Sense Arena, a Czech Republic-based virtual reality company, and the Golden Knights are the first NHL team to have the simulator at their practice rink. It is now open to the public.

The team is offering plenty of experiences in the simulator that features 81 drills. Included among the many practice sessions is a passing drill where you give and receive passes from a virtual teammate skating in a figure-eight, and a shooting drill where you take passes from behind the net and fire them at a digital goaltender. But it expands to include odd-man rushes, goalie tip drills and plenty more.

You’ll find VGK VR near the second rink away from where the Golden Knights practice. It’s about a 10-foot-by-10-foot square with synthetic ice surrounded by hockey boards. You put on a virtual reality helmet and grab a stick with a sensor and you’re off.

It’s very realistic. At one point during the media trial, I forgot I was in a simulation and tried to kick the puck from my “skate” to my stick. Since there wasn’t a sensor on my foot, the puck trickled behind me and bystanders laughed.

It’s the same hardware, HTC Vive, that NFL quarterbacks use to help them diagnose pass rushes. And as fun as it is for fans and certain media members with extinguished hockey dreams, there are practical applications, too. Teams can put the sensors on the ice to put players into specific situations, which can be especially helpful for younger players.

“After you get over the technology ‘wow factor,’ all of the sudden you start training, and you start to train your brain on recognizing patterns and reaction speed and what you’re supposed to do with the puck and when,” said Garrison Macri, the managing director of Sense Arena in North America.

VGK VR is open every day, even if the Golden Knights aren’t practicing, though hours vary. Prices range from $10 for two games or $40 for a full experience.

“We’re excited for VGK VR to be the latest addition to City National Arena,” Golden Knights President Kerry Bubolz said. “Sense Arena’s cutting-edge technology will provide hockey players of all skill levels with an innovative way to develop their skills, while giving fans a perspective like never before.”

Watch out though: That goalie can be tough to beat. I only scored once.

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