Zdeno Chara’s 108.8 mph slap shot Saturday night took the skills competition to a new level.
Is it a level we belong at? And is Chara a true natural, as a five-time slap shot champion in the skills competition?
Here’s what he did last night:
We’ve come a long way in about 22 years, when the slap shot competition was introduced. In 1990, the All-Star weekend had the greatest names in one building from Chris Chelios to Brett Hull, Wayne Gretzky, and the then-slap shot champ, Al Iafrate.
Back then, slap shots rattled the nets at about 96 mph. Why? Well, take a look (at the 2-minute mark):
Somewhere along the line it seems slap shots have been getting ridiculously faster. With all respect to Chara, but is the annual event catering more to the glorification of the ability or showcasing the individual’s true talent?
Observations: NHLers today get to start their momentum a few strides beyond the blue line, skate in and rifle a shot from about 25 feet out. Twenty-two years ago (see video), players got a couple of strides in all from within the zone and had to shoot from 35-40 feet out.
It’d take a bit of research to find out why and when these changes were made, but it seems these two factor into the rising in velocity and speed of the shots, and accuracy becomes less of an issue when shooting closer.
Is this a race to the top (of the speedometer)?
After all, the KHL is claiming the world’s best and fastest at 114.1 mph. Of course, their players start from centre ice and skate within 15 feet.
But who’s the true champion of slap shots? Guys like Alexander Ryazantsev of the KHL, or guys like Chara and Shea Weber who have an advantage in size and a skewed advantage in the more current skills competition? Or do we give praise to guys like Al MacInnis and Brett Hull for their in-game abilities to hammer the slap shot home?