When he was a boy, Brent Seabrook would dutifully drag a huge piece of plastic sheeting to his driveway, make a net out of it and practice his slap shot over and over again. OK, so he dinged a few pucks off the aluminum garage door, denting it and drawing the ire of his mom and pop. But he also developed a wicked shot, one that blasts from the stick and rifles to the goal.
The ultimate payoff for those countless hours? An NHL contract. And a Stanley Cup this year as a defenseman with the Chicago Blackhawks. And a 2010 Olympic hockey gold medal as part of Team Canada. Not bad for a kid who practiced on blacktop.
And you? Do you need a plastic sheet and a driveway to make defenders weep when you rear back for your slap shot? Nah.
“You need good rotation and to come down on the puck,” Seabrook says. “And I like to catch some ice.” Translation for all you non-Stanley Cup winners out there: a rafter-rattling slap shot requires you to work your core, bend your knees, aim at the ice instead of just the puck, and use the recoil of the stick to transfer power from your twisting hips and body through to the puck. That’s more important than upper-body strength.
“A good slap shot is more about the mechanics of the shot,” says Mark Tabrum, director of the Coaching Education Program at USA Hockey. “Just because you’re a muscular person doesn’t mean there’d be a difference in the velocity of your shot. The slap shot is a lower-body shot, using your legs and opening up and rotating your hips into the shot. Lots of guys try to muscle the puck, using their upper body — those are the guys who don’t have that heavy of a shot.”
That makes sense, considering the torso has more muscle mass — and potentially more energy transference — than someone’s biceps. And it’s the “torque,” or twisting and rotation of the torso, that provides the power for a good slap shot.
According to Tabrum, an awe-inspiring rocket of a slap shot requires a fundamental technique — bending your knees and keeping your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, with one foot in front of the other. “It really comes down to transferring weight from your back foot to your front foot, rotating your hips into the shot and hitting the ice probably three to six inches prior to the puck … you’re hitting the ice before you actually hit the puck, and that’s where you’re using the whip of the hockey stick to transfer energy.”
Indeed, all the posters of Hockey Hall of Fame member Brett Hull adorning bedrooms of tween players show the star absurdly flexing his stick midshot. “He broke a lot of sticks,” Tabrum says, “but Hull also got the most the stick could offer in terms of energy transference.”
Aside from open-net practice, Tabrum also recommends getting the most out of “dry-land training” — aka the gym. To strengthen the core, try doing lunges while executing waist turns with a weight plate or medicine ball and doing chopping exercises with an overhead or underhand pulley system. It may even save you a garage door or two.