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The Physics of Hockey

by Alain Haché

When it comes to our own history, Canadians are notoriously sketchy on its details, but when it comes to analyzing hockey, almost everyone is an expert. We know more about the neutral zone trap than we do about fur trappers; we can tell you about the dump-and-chase, but little about softwood lumber dumping.

So you’d think most avenues of hockey analysis would be well trodden, but skating out of the corner with a fresh and original take on the national game is University of Moncton assistant physics professor (and amateur goaltender) Alain Haché. Through anecdotes, graphs, charts, diagrams, and more than a few equations, Haché gives readers an understanding of the basic physics at work in the game of hockey while answering some very pertinent questions, such as why is ice slippery? And why does a frozen puck travel more efficiently than an unfrozen one?

Most book reviewers gave up on physics in about Grade 11, so your correspondent glazed over most of the trigonometry equations, but for the science-minded hockey fan the combination of Haché’s conversational tone and his indisputable numbers should make for a fascinating read.

Divided into six chapters – on ice, skating, shooting, collisions, goaltending, and the overall game – Physics explains many of the game’s everyday phenomena, such as how severely a hockey stick bends when a player takes a slap shot. And who knew that when hulking New Jersey Devils defenceman Scott Stevens levels a player with a bone-jarring bodycheck, it’s merely an example of an “inelastic collision?”

It’s fascinating to learn that professional goalies take about 0.2 seconds to get their arms moving and about 0.4 seconds to get their legs moving. With shots traveling faster than their reflexes can react, goalies are forced to anticipate – that is to say, guess – where a shot is going to go. This is one book where it’d be helpful to bone up on your math skills before reading, but even the layperson will find a wealth of intriguing material.