The art of throwing: precision or power?
When you look at the NHL’s sharpshooters, it can seem very simple to shoot a puck into the top corner. In fact, throwing the puck with such precision is an art. When a player hits the target at the top of the net, it’s a much more complex task than being accurate at the bottom. At least, that’s what researcher Yannick Michaud-Paquette and his colleagues have assessed.
In fact, when the throw is made in a controlled environment at a distance of 4 meters from the goal, there would be a ‘handicap’ that would make it around 20% more difficult to aim for the top of the net versus the bottom of the net. Throwing into the top of the net is a more complex task that requires adjustment on the part of the player, since gravity brings an additional element to deal with.
According to the researchers, one of the factors with the greatest impact on the accuracy of shots into the top of the net is the speed of the puck as it leaves the ice. Set up 4 meters from the net, a player shooting a 54 mph shot will see the puck hit the net 13 cm lower than the initial trajectory due to the effect of gravity. By the same token, a player with a less powerful shot, say 29 mph, will see the puck hit the net 46 cm lower than the initial trajectory.
Although the accuracy of a shot into the top corner does not depend solely on its speed, this factor should not be neglected in training. Working initially on casting speed to optimize accuracy in the longer term seems the ideal alternative. Thus, the professionals’ secret to hitting narrow targets most likely lies in the power of the throw that he fine-tunes every day.
Written by Maxime Provencher, M. Physiotherapy
Michaud-Paquette, Y., Pearsall, D. J., Turcotte, R. A. (2009). Predictors of scoring accuracy: ice hockey wrist shot mechanics. Sports Engineering, 11, 75-84.
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