A slapshot from the blue line is a beautiful thing. The anticipation as a the puck slides across the ice to the awaiting shooter. Watching as the shooter pulls his or her stick backwards, like the cocking of a gun. The energy transferring through the shooter in the stick as it fires forward reaching the puck with precision timing and sends it 60 feet at more than 80 miles an hour towards the net, rising from ice to a few feet off the ground. The puck blazing past the goalie and the bulge in the netting as it catches the frozen rubber bullet.
And then there is my slapshot.
I was never much of a shooter. For the first five years of my hockey “career”, I stood on the blue line as a defenseman largely based on my hockey vision and ability to keep the puck in the zone and slow down an opposing rush. But when the puck was sent back to the point, I usually passed it to my defensive partner for a shot or dumped it back down low. If I did try to take a slapshot, it usually trickled in the general direction of the opposing goalie before it was easily intercepted by an awaiting player.
Even in the recreational leagues, there seem to be those guys that have figured out the mystery of the slapshot. They’ve figured out how to get their stick on the ice inches behind the puck, and to drag their stick along the ice, causing their stick to bend and flex and whip the puck at the net. It happens so fast that if you’ve never seen a slapshot in slow motion, you can miss the physics of it all. Fortunately, thanks to the magic of modern technology, we can slow it all down.
If you were to ask Patrick Kane or any player at any level that is good at taking shows how they got so good, the answer will likely be the same. They got better at taking shots by taking shots. There is no trick, no secret. There are the mechanics of the shot, for sure, but the only way to get that muscle memory built and to get your body understanding the mechanics is to actually take shots.
Now that the weather is getting nicer, my son and I have been going to a local inline rink to play hockey. It’s hard to take a slapshot in the basement, and our driveway is too slanted, but the inline rink with full-sized nets is the perfect place to safely try to unload a shot. I’ve got to say that even in the few weeks that we’ve been going out there, I feel like I am improving, mostly because I’ve taken more attempts in that short time than I had in all of my time on the ice. I’ll mix in tennis balls for dramatic effect since they are easier to lift, and use roller pucks to better simulate what it would be like on the ice. I have to say, pucks are heavier than you think they are when you’re trying to launch them in to the air, and when the mechanics don’t line up, it’s like trying to move a boulder. But when the mechanics do line up, when the stick drags behind the puck, and when the stick connects with the puck in the right place, a slap shot feels effortless.
I’m excited to try out what I’ve practices on the concrete the next time I’m on the ice. Even if the first few don’t go too well and if the pucks trickle back in to the zone, I know it’s only going to be a matter of time before I connect. Until then, I’ll just keep shooting.