The History of Hockey's Slapshot

The History of Hockey's Slapshot

Everyone knows the power of a slapshot.

Hockey's most famous technique can be brutal, a power shot that pounds the puck home at 100 miles an hour or more. What more do fans know? Are they familiar with the history, the science behind it, or the dangers?

The slapshot actually predates television, believe it or not. It was invented in the 1930s and first used in a game in 1937 by Alex Shibicky, although he credits former teammate Fred Cook with inventing it in practice during the 1935-36 season.

The shot was later popularized by Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, who tweaked and updated the technique. The popularity came after he and teammate Rocket Richard became the first two players to score 50 goals in a season. A large number of players have used the shot to great effect since, although it's still primarily a defenseman's best weapon, as forwards and centers generally don't have space to set up and fire, but defensemen sit up at the point and wait for a loose puck.

The coolest aspect of the slapshot is how it works. It's not a direct hit on the puck as it appears. As seen in this slow motion video, players actually hit the ice with their stick first, bending the stick's blade back. This bend stays until the end of the shot, when the blade springs free and flicks the puck on, adding more force than a player could achieve on their own.

That bend and snap is actually quite violent and puts a lot of pressure on the stick. While effective, a good slapshot would not be possible without modern fiberglass hockey sticks; older wooden sticks simply weren't capable of handling the extra pressure, but the current sticks can stand up to almost a literal ton of force (2,000 psi). 

There's one real downside: slapshots are dangerous. Even with helmets and visors in place and wearing heavy padding, players regularly get injured by slapshots. Slapshots injuries are brutal, with players getting gashed or their bones were broken by the sheer blunt force of a small, hard piece of rubber flying faster than 100 MPH. Sure, goalies can take the hit and block a slapshot, but it's seriously risky for any other player.

There's a reason they say players sacrifice their bodies to block a shot. The influx of young skill, along with improved hockey equipment technology, has made 100+ MPH slapshots part of the game. With fighting being phased out of NHL for player safety reasons, it would not be farfetched to see discussions of removing or limiting slapshots as well.

And now you know more about hockey's most famous shot. As hockey progresses, slapshots have only gotten harder and faster. There's always more that can be learned, like the best players to ever use the shot, but there's room for that another time.

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