Monday, 22 March 2010

Science Should Be Popular

I spent some time today scanning through the online archives of Popular Science. Normally, the magazine is focused more on technology and science, but they do branch out into sports science once in a while. Hockey has had a few articles printed on the pages of Popular Science, so let's take a look at some of the items examined by the magazine over its time.

  • Bob Sillery brings a little FYI on hockey to the pages of Popular Science's February 2003 maganzine. There are some generic facts on this page, but what caught my attention was the fact about George Owen of the Boston Bruins in 1928 on this page. This would make George Owen the first player in the NHL to wear some sort of protective headwear in a game, but there are no images proving this to be true. Anyone know of any pictures that exist of Owen wearing his helmet?
  • The December 1996 edition of Popular Science had an excellent explanation on how the FoxTrax puck worked. The glowing puck contained a battery, a circuit board, and 20 emitters that 16 sensors positioned around the ice and in the rafters would pick up. From there, the sensors would send the information back to computer that were hooked up through the cameras, enabling the cameras to create the tail on the puck. Those computers would then send that information to the Fox Puck Truck (nice name) where the information would be broadcast as the cameras displayed the game live. Pretty cool science in that whole system, right? The execution, however, left a lot to be desired.
  • The February 2002 magazine took a look at some skates that the Czech and German teams were wearing in the Salt Lake City Olympics. The t'blade skate, created by W├╝rthner Sport of Germany, used a thinner blade to reduce gliding friction by up to 40% thanks to a warmer blade creating a layer of water. The skates were also 35% lighter, thus enabling players to be faster. While there were some noticeable differences - the skates sounded like tearing paper when moving along the ice - they had yet to be adopted by North American skaters. There are other sites that endorse their properties, but the t'blade still hasn't overtaken the normal chassis we see on skates to my knowledge. Anyone with more knowledge or experience wanna comment on the blades and chassis?
  • Finally, one article that caught my attention was August 2008 article about save percentage and how it doesn't tell the full story about a goaltender. Alan Ryder, who writes the Hockey Analytics site, states that shot quality is more telling about a goaltender than shot quantity. What this tells a person is how good a team defence is and how this reflects in a goaltender's overall stats. From the inserted stats board, you can see that Marty Turco's numbers improve his ranking by fifteen spots based on the shot quality rather than just save percentage. It's an interesting application of the numbers provided by the NHL, and it goes to disprove the inflated save percentages of some of the pretenders on the leader board.
There are more great hockey stories to be found in the Popular Science archives, and I'll be bringing those forward shortly. Hockey science is pretty cool if you ask me, and it's nice to see the major publications who focus solely on science and technology bringing sports science to the forefront.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Ruby @ Science Camp said...

Great article! I believe that science really should be involved with hockey because more often than not, physics plays a big role while playing the game.