Friday, 9 March 2012

Choose Your Words Carefully

The logo to the left rarely makes an appearance on a hockey site unless we're talking about the Maple Leafs in mid-April (ZING!). However, it appears that golf manufacturer TaylorMade is creeping into hockey's frozen world as they introduce sticks with the TaylorMade logo on them. So while I kid some of the guys on my team about playing hockey with a nine-iron when shooting from the point, there actually might be some truth in that one of golf's major equipment players is now in the hockey business.

I received an email from a Jonathan S. today who writes,

"Today, CCM announced the launch of a new stick with TaylorMade technology. The stick will be used on the ice tomorrow by Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the Colorado vs. Edmonton game."
Short and to the point, I must say, but he did include a photo of this stick of which he was informing me.
If you need to see that a little closer, just click the picture. Examine it closer to the blade, and you'll find the TaylorMade logo. So what gives? Who decided to let the golf guys onto the ice?

"Our relationship with TaylorMade will be a game-changer for CCM," said Philippe Dubé, General Manager of Reebok-CCM Hockey, in a press release. "TaylorMade is a clear leader in product innovation in sporting goods and we are very excited to collaborate with them to bring some of their leading technologies to the most legendary hockey company in the industry."

"Reebok-CCM and TaylorMade share the same passion for delivering high performing equipment played by the most demanding athletes using technical and innovative approaches," said Benoit Vincent, Chief Technology Officer, TaylorMade.

The part of the press release that I found funny was that Reebok/TaylorMade is releasing this information for a game featuring two of the young stars of the game, yet hardly anyone focuses on sticks during the game. Furthermore, the press release states, "The CCM RBZ stick and all of its technologies will be officially introduced on June 22, 2012 at the NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh with the retail launch to follow later in the year." So even if you did pick up on these new sticks that Reebok and TaylorMade have collaborated on, you'd still have to wait for another three months before you can touch one in stores!

So while the joint venture between two Adidas subsidiary companies while go off without much notice except to those in the know, there was something that caught my eye about the TaylorMade logo on the stick above.

"Powered by TaylorMade"

Yes, you read that correctly. Reebok has allowed another company to market themselves as "powering" the stick. It's worth thinking about, and reader "jrg" on Uni Watch wanted to know "how a hockey stick can be 'powered' by anything. Wouldn’t it sound like less of a placebo if it said 'Designed by TaylorMade' or something similar?"

A good point made, but I think this is where marketing needs to be clear as to what is meant when using a phrase like "Powered by TaylorMade". I went to great lengths to explain how "power", when used in the context of physics, would make sense as a concept, but loses its meaning entirely when expressed in the court of public opinion.

Power, as defined by physics, is "is the rate at which energy is transferred, used, or transformed". Broken down, that doesn't mean a whole heckuva lot when looking at this stick. However, when physics is put into motion, the concept of power makes a huge difference when it comes to stick choices.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, Al Iafrate and Al MacInnis were regular finalists in the NHL's Hardest Shot Competition at the annual All-Star Skills Competition. Both of these players used sticks composed of wood, and both clocked in speeds right around the 100 mph mark when they won the competition. In fact, excluding only Iafrate's blast of 105.2 mph, the two rarely ever cracked the 101-mph barrier. MacInnis' top speed in any of the eight Hardest Shot events that he won was 100.4 mph.

Move forward to the five-time defending champion of the Hardest Shot Competition, Zdeno Chara, and his slowest speed to win the event was in 2007 with 100.4 mph blast. Since that year, his fastest shot to win the event has been higher than each of the years previous. In fact, Shea Weber, who has been the runner-up a couple of times, has eclipsed MacInnis' 100.4 mph blast and been faster than Iafrate's 105.2 mph record-setting shot. The key here? Both Chara and Weber use composite sticks.

So what does that tell us? Well, it means that the flex on a stick actually does make a difference in how hard one shoots. There is a fabulous article written by Dan Russell and Linda Hunt about stick flex that really should be read by everyone when it comes to maximizing shot power. In that paper, they write,
"A hockey stick can bend an amazing amount (up to 30 degrees) during slap shots and wrist shots. As the stick temporarily bends, it stores and then releases potential energy. In the hands of a player, a flexible stick can store more potential energy than a stiff stick. However, while some studies suggest that more flexible sticks produce higher puck speeds, other studies suggest that player skill has a greater influence on puck speed than does stick stiffness."
So how does this relate back to our physics definition of power? This is a tough concept to grasp at first - admittedly, I had to look at it differently in order to comprehend the concept. Here is the best example I can give you in order to help.

Electricity is a form of energy. When that electricity is sent to a light bulb, the light bulb transforms the electrical energy into light energy and heat energy (definition of power). All of the energy is conserved (Law of Conservation of Energy), but the electrical energy is given off as either light or heat in this equation. Because heat is an unwanted byproduct of the conversion, more efficient lights transfer more electricity into light than heat.

If we transfer this concept to the hockey stick, a hockey player is electricity. He energizes the stick with his motion in shooting the puck. The stick plays the role of the light bulb where it takes all of the potential energy being exerted upon it by the player and transfers it to various forms of energy: heat, force on the puck, potentially the breaking of a stick at some weak point. What the composite stick does, like the energy-efficient light bulb, is transfer more the player's force down the stick to drive the puck forward at a higher rate of velocity. In short, the RBZ stick is more efficient in its power transfer than a regular wood stick is.

Does TaylorMade or Reebok tell you this? No. It just looks better if the stick is "Powered by TaylorMade". If you go to any sports store and ask them exactly how TaylorMade "powers" the stick, I'm going to guess the person standing in front of you will have no idea how the physics of the stick actually work. Instead, they may try to convince you that TaylorMade actually makes you shoot faster because of the technology in the stick. In other words, they are using the colloquial term for power whereby "the light bulb is powered by electricity".

As true as the last statement may be, you'll get no explanation of how the light bulb's transformation of the energy is the actual power equation. Instead, we accept that electricity powers the light bulb and we get light. That's fine and dandy in the real world, but it's not entirely true when it comes to your new hockey stick because TaylorMade's technology doesn't power the stick in the same way we understand electricity to power the light bulb.

Now all of this might just be like Charlie Brown listening to his teacher to you.
That's fair, considering that I've said that I never wanted this blog to become Physics Blog In Canada. But it needs to be said that corporations shouldn't be comfortable using words to misdirect you, the consumer. I want to make something clear here:


If you shoot like a peewee hockey player and you buy this stick, you're probably donating your hard-earned money to Reebok and TaylorMade without receiving a tax receipt for your donation. But if you have a little zip on your shot, you could see a slight increase in speed when shooting with this stick because this stick transfers more of that force to the puck. That, readers, is how TaylorMade's technology is "powering" the stick. Nothing more, nothing less.

Sometimes, the corporate rhetoric sounds a lot better than the science behind the statement. HBIC is happy to be the enlightening source of your corporate doublespeak.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

UL Hockey News said...

Good point. They must choose carefully the words that they are using. People do not just read and accept things. A hickey stick made “Powered by Taylormade” is like a joke. Is there some kind of motor in there somewhere?