Slapshots and Turns
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January 11, 2000
Slap shots and Turns
A downhill skier gracefully completes another turn while an ice hockey player checks an opponent into the glass. The skier sails off a jump like an eagle, just as the hockey player absorbs the blows of opposing players like a tank. The skier lands the jump with precision, as the hockey player stumbles towards the opposing goal. The skier gracefully passes the finish line and stops just as the hockey player shoots the puck. As the skier notices the time of his run, he cries tears of joy because he has just won the gold medal. The hockey player hears the horn sound as his puck sails into the goal. He spits blood out of his mouth as his teammates tackle him because they have just won the Stanley Cup. Both of these athletes have won the highest prize in each of their sports. Both will be hailed by children as gods in the sporting world. However, because these two men are in different sports they will never meet each other. Both will go home and celebrate their accomplishments in different ways. The public will celebrate along with these two athletes, unaware that they both accomplished the same feat. The public believes these two athletes participated in totally different sports. The public believes that one played the graceful sport of downhill skiing, while the other played the brutal sport of ice hockey. At a superficial level it may appear that these two sports are different, however digging deeper proves that the sports of ice hockey and downhill skiing are quite similar in their technique.
Ice hockey and downhill skiing are similar in that both utilize the same method to perpetuate motion. An ice hockey player wears a skate that posses a sharp blade at its base. This blade is believed to merely cut through the ice when movement occurs. This belief is false. In actuality the pressure applied to the blade via the weight of the hockey player causes the blade to melt a small of amount of ice underneath it. Then the blade proceeds to hydroplane over the small film of water melted by the skate. Immediately after the skate has passed over the small film of water it freezes again into ice. This is the reason the ice needs to be smoothed after a match, because it did not freeze into a flat, level surface. Skiing uses this same idea. The bottom of a ski is covered with wax. When a skier goes over the snow the wax uses the forces applied by the weight of the skier to melt a small amount of the snow underneath the ski. Then the ski proceeds to hydroplane over the water. Once the length of the ski has passed over the water it freezes into snow. Just like an ice hockey rink, the downhill ski slope must be smoothed out at the end of the day by a grooming device because the water did not freeze into a smooth face. Ice hockey and downhill skiing are similar in that they both require the athlete to hydroplane over water in order to move.
A hockey player and downhill skier use similar methods to begin movement and then control themselves while movement is occurring. The method used to begin movement while playing hockey or skiing is the same. When viewing a hockey game a viewer will notice a hockey player pushing off to the side with on skate and then the other. It is this constant pushing that causes the player to move forward. A downhill skier uses this same method. A common misconception is that a downhill skier begins his or her movement based only on gravity. In actuality a skier begins motion by exiting the starting gate and pushing off with one leg then the other. When a skier has reached sufficient speed he or she will cease this action and move by gravity. Still both hockey players and downhill skiers begin movement in the same way. Once movement has begun the same methods are used in order to maintain control in both of these sports. First of all both hockey players and downhill skiers lean forward in their boots in order to maintain balance. After this, the common method used to maintain a safe speed is the turn. In hockey the athlete would increase the pressure on the skate he or she wishes to have on the outside of the turn. The next step is a swivel of the body in this direction and the turn is completed when the pressure is equalized between the two skates. Turning in downhill skiing requires this same movement. First the extra pressure is applied followed by a swivel of the hips. When pressure has been equalized between the two skies, the turn is complete. The last way both of these sports maintain control is by being able to stop abruptly. In order to be a successful
ice hockey player or downhill skier a person must be able to stop on a dime. In order to stop, the athlete uses