CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Corpus Christi IceRays season is coming to a close. The team just has about a month left to play and their season will be over.
Hockey seems to be a sport that is fun to watch, but under-appeciated when it comes to recognizing the skill needed to perform just the basic fundamentals of the sport. Let's put it this way: some people in the world cannot ice skate. Hockey players are playing a sport while on ice skates, making crisp passes, moving the puck with purpose and strategy all leading to what I personally think it's one of the coolest things to see in the sports: the slap shot.
The sound in the arena is so recognizable. It is a blazing fast action that sends the puck flying upwards of 100 miles per hour, but it is not just a wind up and shoot. Like everything in hockey, there is technique. I went to an IceRays practice to talk with players and their equipment manager about what makes a slap shot... a slap shot.
"When you are taking a slap shot, you actually want the stick to touch the ice before it touches the puck," IceRays equipment manager Brooks Taylor said. "When you do that, it causes a bend in the stick, the whip out of that is what gives it its strength and speed."
That was something I had personally never realized. The whip in the stick acts almost like slingshot, sending the puck zooming towards the net.
Slap shots are almost like hitting a baseball. Players told me that they know when the puck hits that sweet spot on the blade.
"You can feel it," IceRays defenseman Chris Tamer said. "Especially on one timers, it is really smooth."
On the receiving end of the flying six ounce piece of rubber is the goaltender. With no time to flinch, he needs to make the right decision, or it can cost his team the game.
"You are not really afraid of the puck as much as you are letting it passed you," IceRays goaltender Jeremy Forman said. "If you flinch, it is in the net."
The reflexes these goalies display while once again, on skates, is impeccable. Their ability to make split time decision in order to prevent a goal is something to watch, but Forman claims it is not just the physical aspect of the game that allows a goaltender to be successful.
"I think what a lot of people don't know is that goaltending is mental."
It is always a constant battle between the shooter and the netminder. One is trying to score, the other trying to defend and the thing that connects them, is that flying puck, sent by a slap shot.