Slap Shot Science combines prof's love of hockey, physics
Moncton's Alain Haché explores the physics of everything from skate blades to concussions in new book
The physics behind Canada's national winter pastime is the subject of a new popular science book by University of Moncton professor Alain Haché.
"I grew up playing hockey... so what I'm doing here is really taking the tools I learned in science and applying it to a sport I like."
Haché describes Slap Shot Science as an "under the hood" look at the game of hockey, written in a way the general public can understand.
It's a sequel to his first book, The Physics of Hockey, which was published in 2002.
Haché says it all started at a physics conference when a publisher with the John Hopkins University Press approached him.
"He said, 'Oh you're Canadian, are you interested in writing a book about hockey?'"
That first book, which was aimed at other scientists, turned out to be very popular and opened many doors for Haché, including an appearance in a documentary about the science of hockey.
The quiet professor found himself face-to-face with players on the Toronto Maple Leafs explaining the science behind the slap shot.
"I'm a goalie so they wanted to know how it would be to be in front of NHL level shots — and I just play in the beer league right? Kind of a jump."
Haché says the first book also led to discussions with the NHL about how to reduce concussions and injuries on the ice, in particular how much cushioning is optimal inside of helmets.
Over the years, he has also been contacted by the Ottawa Senators and the New York Islanders with queries about why pucks behave the way they do.
New book offers tips
"I'm hoping that the fans, the coaches, the players would pick up a copy and look at it and understand the game better," he said.
"There's a lot of tips on how to choose a hockey stick, how to sharpen skates, skating techniques, how you should bend your knees and why."
Haché explains the ideal level of skate sharpening depends on the size of a player, with lighter players benefiting most from deeper grooves.
"But the heavier players they can afford to have a flatter blade underneath with less groove because with their weight they will dig more into the ice ... if you have a very heavy player the skate will dig into the ice and it's going to make the skating harder, more energy will be spent," Haché said.
The book also looks at how the game has changed over the years, for instance the size of goalies in the NHL.
"We used to have goalies about 5 foot 5 or 5 foot 6, now we have goalies 6 foot 9 and they take a lot of space so talking about now maybe we should increase the size of the net."
His work combining sport and science has also led to jobs with equipment manufacturers.
"I had a chance to work on a new type of skate with a heated blade, it's called a Therma Blade. It was a big project."
Haché has recently been contacted by another company to consult on a new type of hockey stick.
However, he says despite all of his research his 11-year-old son still won't take his advice when it comes to the game.
"He doesn't listen to my tips at all, he'd rather listen to his friends," Haché laughs.