Part 2 — Hockey

Dr. M: Let’s talk about hockey. I know that is one of your favorite sports and that you actually worked with the 1980 gold medal Olympic Team.

Dr. S: Yes, I had the pleasure of actually evaluating potential members of that team. That evaluation was one additional piece of information used by Herb Brooks in selecting the players for the Olympic Team.

Dr. M: So you should have gotten a gold medal too!

Dr. S: At least I can say I had a small part in winning the gold medal.

Dr. M: Let’s start with the goalie. It seems to me that it is similar to baseball. The puck is traveling at very high speed and the goalie has to make split second decisions about where and when to make his move.

Dr. S: Absolutely, the puck might be traveling at close to 100 mph. Like a pitcher in baseball, the offensive player is going to try to deceive the goalie, to make it more difficult for the goalie to track the puck. But in hockey, the puck can be coming from anywhere on the ice, and the net is much bigger than the strike zone. There are more variables that have to be processed to make the save—velocity, distance, angle. Don’t forget the goalie is also wearing a mask that reduces peripheral vision very significantly.

Dr. M: Not to mention they have to make their move wearing 50 pounds of gear! How do they make ANY saves?

Dr. S: It is amazing. The best goalies are successful 92% of the time. That’s one reason why hockey players fight so hard for the puck. The offense knows they are going to need MANY shots on goal to score.

Dr. M: What is the most important visual skill for hockey goalies?

Dr. S: Visual motor reaction time; this refers to the amount of time that elapses between the initiation of a visual stimulus (such as a light going on) and the completion of the motor response to that stimulus (such as hitting the light with your hand). Athletes with faster response times to very simple visual-motor tasks will be at an advantage when they are asked to react to very complex tasks such as making a save.