Monday, 24 October 2011

More Great Emails

I consider myself pretty lucky when it comes to the great emails that I receive. You, readers, make this blogging thing a lot more fun than just posting a diatribe about some hockey issue. Again, I feel lucky because I get a lot of excellent and thoughtful emails with great questions and information. I received one last week that I wanted to post with an answer this week, but I got a second email in regards to the same information. It's not that rare for me to receive emails about the same thing, but most of those emails come from some Nigerian prince looking to share his fortune or from some dying person who has a vast fortune that I need to distribute. Thankfully, we'll skip past the spam and focus on these two emails today.

We'll start with the older email. I received this email from Gisele. In her email, Gisele writes,

"Just curious. I always knew Bobby Hull's slap shot was the fastest and Gordie Howe's was the fastest wrist shot. But what if these two greats were playing now with the new sticks the players now use. How fast do you think their shots would be?"
Great question, Gisele, and thanks for writing! Gisele must have read an article I wrote in December 2009 regarding the speeds of shots fired by NHL legends. Bobby Hull was judged to shoot at 118.3 mph while Gordie Howe's wrist shot was clocked at 114.2 mph!

While I don't fully believe in those numbers, there is no doubt that these two men had cannons for shots. Hull routinely gave goaltenders nightmares when it came to the velocity he could pump out on his slapshot, and Howe's forearms made him look more like Popeye than a hockey player. His wrist shot was as close to being sniper fire as a hockey player can get.

In regards to Gisele's question, I'm going to speculate a few things because we can't necessarily test the players in question at this point. So here goes nothing:

  • I think Hull's slapshot would routinely be one of the best in the NHL with the new sticks seen in the NHL. Would his shot be faster than Chara's record-setting blast? There's a good chance that it would come close, but saying that it would be faster would be categorically wrong on my part. I'm not going on record in saying that Hull's shot would be better, but it would certainly rank as one of the best in the NHL.

  • Howe, with the flex on the sticks seen today, probably could have had lasers for wrist shots. The man's arms alone gave him a unique advantage over players in his era. By adding the stick technology to Howe's already-impressive shot would only add to his arsenal. Would his wrist shot be faster than Chara's slapshot? No, not by a longshot. But it would be one of the more impressive wrist shots in the NHL.
Thanks for asking that question, Gisele, and keep the questions coming if you have any others! Emails like yours are fun to answer, especially when trying to determine the science behind the answer!

Adding to this email, I received a second email regarding shooting speeds. This email, though, came from a man who knows the science behind a rocket of a shot. Ron Johnson emailed me, and he has some pretty impressive credentials behind his name. Mr. Johnson wrote,
"It was nice reading your article on the hardest shot. I have a hockey shooting blog called Elite Hockey Shooters and work with a gentleman named Mike Valley the GT coach for the Dallas Stars; his site Elite Goalies.

"I have taught shooting mechanics for the past 30+ years and exclusively for the past 7 years approximately 35 hours per week instructing professional and amateur players currently working with Kyle Okposo, Joe Pavelski, Adum Burish, Bryce Salvador, Tom Gilbert, Aaron Voros, etc.... I am also the technical director and co founder of NEXT Testing specializing in hockey science analysis.

"While shooting mechanics are a lost art today due to the time spent on skating, I have witnessed several Junior A players with wrist shots over 85 mph with professional players shooting 95 MPH standing still with feet planted. It is unfortunate that all players in the NHL are not tested for both. I have yet today to witness a junior of professional player with perfect mechanics which when I played seemed to be far more correct.

"I was told that Gordie Howe's wrist shot was clocked at 95+ MPH so I was indeed surprised to read the number that you posted. It would certainly be amazing to find out what Bobby Hull (I was told it was clocked at 113 MPH) would have shot with today's stick at 15% recoil to release.

"I did enjoy your blog... well done and best of luck."
Once again, thank you, Mr. Johnson, for your email, for reading, and for sending me some confirmation on my thoughts to Gisele! I am truly honoured to have you write to me, so thank you for this!

I'll be the first to admit that shooting mechanics should be taught to all players, and those teachings should start young. The "muscle memory" that is required to develop the unconscious ability to shoot in a mechanically-sound way has to be instilled at an early age so that the lessons taught are forming good habits and not just correcting bad habits. The work you're doing with the NHL players and the junior players, Mr. Johnson, should be commended, and I'll do that here.

I really enjoyed the Hall of Fame section that showcases some of the deadliest snipers in the NHL of all-time. While there are a few sections that are off-limits unless you have a valid sign-in, it looks as though Mr. Johnson has himself a very nice site with a lot of information. Well done, Mr. Johnson, on this excellent work, and Mr. Valley's site for goaltenders is equally impressive.

Emails like these that provoke thought and require some extrapolation of results are why I love the science and history in this sport. Moreso, I really enjoy taking the time to do the research on these topics, and I encourage all readers to send questions if and when you have them. I want to thank Gisele and Mr. Ron Johnson for sending in these emails, and I hope to hear from both readers in the future!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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