The slap shot is the fastest, hardest shot in hockey. It involves a huge wind-up and a transfer of almost the entire body's energy into the shot.
The slap shot is hockey's equivalent of the long bomb in football, the home run swing in baseball or the Big Dog sell-out drive in golf.
Everyone uses the slap shot in modern day hockey, but there was an era in hockey before the shot had even been imagined. Harder to believe still there was an era where the slap shot was considered too high risk a maneuver to perform in a game.
Players developed the ability to get the shot off. In the no-mask goalie era it became a terror weapon among the league scorers.
There has always been status to be had in possessing the hardest shot in the game which means having the fastest slap shot. Those players who have had that shot are celebrated for it.
The advent of the hardest shot competition at the NHL All-Star Game has provided an opportunity to accurately measure the speed of a slap shot as players compete side by side in the same rink at the same time while being measured with the same radar gun.
There are still problems with accurately determining how fast a particular shot may be and why.
There are even more problems when you try to compare players who have been timed with different guns at different timers. Players from the wooden stick era quite possibly would have had much faster slap shots if they'd played in the era of the composite stick. There's no way to accurately compare slap shot speed from an era where they didn't measure the speed of the shot to players in the modern era.
Despite all these problems, I've tried to put together a list including all those players and how I feel they would have ranked on a level playing field. It involves a lot of speculation and not a little imagination to try to make it work.
There a variety of players accredited with first attempting the slap shot in an NHL game. There is a case made for Howie Morenz developing the shot when he swung at a puck in anger in a practice.
Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion certainly popularized the slap shot in the '50s. Even the most poke check shy, controlling coach couldn't argue with a 50-goal scorer who used the shot as his primary weapon.
My favourite candidate for the player who first used what today would be called a slap shot is former New York Ranger forward of the 1930s and '40s Alex Shibicky. He was a key member of the 1940 Stanley Cup winning Rangers team and played on the famous "Bread" line with Neil and Mac Colville.
Shibicky is said to have watched teammate Fred "Bun" Cook play around with the shot in practice, but it was Shibicky who first used it in games.
Shibicky scored 20 or more goals in a season twice for the Rangers. His career was interrupted by his enlistment in the Canadian army during World War II. He returned to the NHL for only one season after that.
Alex Shibicky deserves credit as the first player to use the slap shot in NHL games.
The NHL is a league full of stories. They grow in the telling and it's always difficult to sort out the gold from the dross.
The stories of legendary slap shots taken by unlikely players are more prevalent than most other. I've picked out a few of those stories to address here.
Chad Kilger had a great slap shot. He was not the kind of NHL player who could create an opportunity to use that shot often in a game, and his career offensive statistics reflect that.
During one skills competition with the Leafs, he had a slap shot recorded at what would be an NHL record 106.6 MPH. It could be true. Unfortunately any other competition I've seen him at he hits the puck between 95 and 100 MPH; very good, but not an all-time great number.
I'm inclined to believe the number was the result of a poorly calibrated radar gun. It would be interesting to know what kind of speed numbers the other Leafs put up at that particular skills competition.
Likewise, I've got to be sceptical about defenseman Denis Kulyash and his reported 110.3 MPH slap shot recorded at this year's KHL skills competition. Put him and Chara in the same rink with the same radar gun and I'm happy to believe the results; otherwise you're comparing apples and oranges.
One of the oldest stories of an unbelievably fast slap shot surround NHL legend Bobby Hull. Popular Mechanics did a story on the science of sports back in February of 1968. In the story Bobby Hull was reported to have a slap shot recorded at 118.3 MPH. For years that was accepted as scientific fact.
Unfortunately I have yet to be able to find the original article to see what their methodology was, what they were actually measuring and how they did measure it. I would guess they were measuring something much different than what gets measured at today's hardest shot competition.
The same study reported Jean Beliveau had a "wrist" shot that reached 105 MPH. If true, he would have possessed in the '60s a wrist shot harder than any modern slap shot but Chara's. That's an obvious absurdity.
My solution to this problem would be that however Popular Mechanics measured the shots they were picking them up at the maximum speed of the shot the instant it left the stick. The modern fastest shot competition is recording the puck after it decelerates for 15 feet. Or a guess a simpler answer is that they just did a very inaccurate measurement.
Bobby Hull had one of the great slap shots of all time. I don't believe the 118.3 MPH number, and I definitely don't believe Beliveau with an 105 MPH wrist shot.
Yes, Bobby Orr was the greatest offensive defenseman in the history of the game. He was perhaps the greatest player ever to lace up skates. Still, among the list of players with great slap shots, he didn't quite crack my top 25.
His game was based on explosive skating and a strength and skill that made him almost impossible to catch on the ice. Often forgotten in that mix of superlative talents is the fact that he had one of the great point shots in hockey.
Unassuming, average sized, Stephane Richer had a slap shot from the point that resembled one from a man three inches taller and 40 pounds heavier.
Eric Lindros was a huge man with as hard a slap shot as anyone else in hockey.
Steve Shutt, Guy Lafleur, Pierre Larouche, Mario Lemieux, Michel Goulet, Wayne Gretzky, Brad Park and Jarri Kurri all had slap shots they could bury behind goalies in an era when every goalie wasn't uniformed and padded like the Michelin Man.
Chad Kilger's 106 mile per hour slap shot was probably the result of a poorly calibrated radar gun but he still had an incredibly hard slap shot that was the hardest on two teams (the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs) when he played with them.
Dave Manson couldn't often get his shot off in game situations, but it still was very nearly an 100 MPH shot. It made him useful on the point of the power play.
Mark Streit, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Alexander Ovechkin, Jarome Iginla and Dion Phaneuf are all currently big shooters in the NHL who deserved and got consideration for this list. Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Glen Anderson, Geoff Sanderson, Rocket Richard, Peter Bondra and Bryan McCabe all had or have great slapshots. Alexei Kovalev, Dany Heatley and Jonathan Cheechoo, back when he was in the NHL, all have very dangerous slap shots.
These guys for one reason or another didn't quite make my final list but they all had amazing slap shots.
Chris Pronger is a big man (6'6", 220 lbs.) with a big shot from the point. It's been a central part of his arsenal since he joined the NHL with the Hartford Whalers back in 1993.
The 36-year-old Pronger still consistently gets off a slap shot that approaches 100 MPH.
Mike Bossy simply enough was one of the best shooters in NHL history. More well known for a great wrist and snap shot, he also had a slap shot that was second to none.
He was chosen by PuckPassion.com as the second-best NHL goal scorer of all time.
Nine times in an all too short 10-year career Mike Bossy scored more than 50 goals in a season. He scored 17 goals in the playoffs in three of the four New York Islander Cup winning runs. He won the Conn Smythe trophy in 1982 as the Islanders won their third of four consecutive Stanley Cups.
Bossy was less inclined to just blast the puck past you, but he could certainly do it if he had to.
Rick Martin (No. 7 above) was the trigger man on Buffalo's famed French Connection line. Martin had a terrific slap shot which he used to score with abandon.
Martin had 44 goals as a rookie (then a league record) for the Buffalo Sabres. He scored 52 goals in a season twice and had more than 40 goals five times in his injury shortened 11-year NHL career.
Richard Martin had a point shot that he could put past almost anyone.
Andy Bathgate was one of the greatest New York Rangers of all time. He had his best season in 1958/59 when he scored 40 goals and 88 points and won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's most valuable player. This on a Ranger team that finished fifth and missed the playoffs.
Andy is one of only four New York Rangers ever to win the NHL MVP trophy along with Mark Messier, Charlie Rayner and Buddy O'Connor.
Bathgate had a great slap-shot that he used to effect. His shot was spoken of in the same breath with that of Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion and Bobby Hull.
Yvan Cournoyer was a smaller man than a lot of the players who have had hard NHL slap shots. At 5'7" and 172 lbs., the Roadrunner was no giant. One of the fastest men ever to strap on skates, Cournoyer had a great slap shot: hard and accurate.
A power-play specialist early in his career, Cournoyer would often unleash that big slapshot from the point. On occasion a shot blocker would go down writhing in pain after being hit by that Cournoyer shot. Cournoyer would pick the puck up again and put a second slap shot past the goalie.
Jason Arnott is another of a bevy of modern day scorers who can crank a 100 MPH slap shot with a carbon fibre stick. Ask Rod Pelley. You don't want to be hit with it.
Reed Larson was a Minneapolis-born offensive defenseman who spent most of his NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings in the lost era before new owner Mike Ilitch managed a renaissance in the Motor City.
He was a smooth skater, but it was his booming point shot that fueled his offensive numbers. Even late in the career he was able to put this admittedly soft goal past Alan Chevrier from center ice.
If Howie Morenz was the first man to discover the slap shot and Alex Shibicky was the first to use it in the NHL, it was left to Bernard "Boom Boom" Geoffrion to popularize the shot.
Scoring 50 goals in a season using the slap shot as a primary weapon couldn't help but spread it through the league.
The big (6'2", 214 lbs.) power forward has always possessed one of the most emphatic slap shots in hockey.
He is yet another guy who routinely blasts the puck at more than 100 MPH.
During a game, Sheldon Souray seems to have the most terrifyingly hard shot in hockey. His numbers at skills competitions never seem to back up that impression.
Most of the fear generated from a Souray slapper may come from the fact that in the words of the immortal Crash Davis, "I don't know where it's going to go, heheh, I really don't."
If I've rated Souray too high, it's because of the fear factor generated by watching his slap shot whip past player's faces as they stand in front of the net. The erratic nature of the shot might mean it's the most dangerous slap shot in hockey even if it isn't the hardest.
Hulking power forward John Leclair (6'3", 226 lbs.) had one of the great slap shots in hockey. Born in St Albans, Vermont, John had a shot that allowed him to score 50 goals in a season three times. He was trigger man and playmaker on the Philadelphia Flyers famed Legion of Doom line in the 1990s.
Leclair had an hundred MPH slap shot and was in the conversation with Al MacInnis in at least one NHL skills competition. That one year he lost the fastest slap shot competition to MacInnis by .1 MPH.
Fredrik Modin has just retired from the NHL. The toll of injuries had proven too much to overcome at his age.
He had a good NHL and international career with a Stanley Cup win with the Tampa Bay Lightning and a gold medal win with Sweden in Torino.
Never a good skater, the big man had an incredible slapshot. He recorded a career best 102.1 MPH slap shot in one NHL skills competition.
Jacques Lemaire practiced his shot as a boy by playing with a heavy steel puck he made himself. He was famous for goals he scored from beyond the blue line.
The video above shows in putting a shot through Tony Esposito in the 1973 Stanley Cup finals that eventually leads to a goal.
In game seven of the 1971 Stanley Cup finals he scored a goal from just past center ice on future Hall of Fame goaltender Esposito that started a comeback for the Canadiens.
Lemaire was known for his responsible defensive play as much as for his offense, but his slap shot gave him an offensive weapon that not many other players have.
Adrian Aucoin is a veteran defenseman who has had one of the fastest recorded slap shots on competition with an 102.1 MPH shot. Adrian had a consistent 100 MPH slap shot for most of his career while using a wooden stick.
In the video clip above Adrian discusses the nature of the slap shot.
Brett Hull, the son of Bobby and nephew of Dennis, is the third Hull to make my list of the top 25 hardest slap shots of all time.
Brett was another player like Mike Bossy who did nothing but score goals all the time. He had a better slap shot than Bossy and could always get open. Brett Hull was dangerous from anywhere inside the blueline. That slap shot was fierce.
The multi-talented Fedorov brought a full set of skills to the NHL from his birthplace in Pskov, USSR. It seems almost unfair that a man with his speed and moves could also consistently uncork a plus 100 MPH slap shot.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have planned their future around their 2008 first overall draft pick Steven Stamkos. Stamkos came into the league with a full set of NHL ready skills.
He also possesses one of the hardest slap shots in the game today. He recorded an 101.9 MPH slap shot in his first Tampa Bay Lightning skills competition. He duplicated that result in the hardest shot competition this year. It's likely to help him be one of the NHL's leading scorers for years to come.
Denis Potvin was one of the greatest players ever to lace up skates, let alone one of the league's great defenseman. A ferocious competitor, unparralled hitter and world class skater, Potvin dominated the NHL for his New York Islanders.
Potvin had one of the greatest point shots of all time. Hard and accurate it helped him score 20 or more goals in a season nine separate times. Denis Potvin had one of the hardest slap shots in NHL history.
Dennis Hull had a good NHL career but was always overshadowed by big brother Bobby and later by nephew Brett. When he played the debate always raged about whether his or Bobby's was the hardest slapshot.
Goalies of the era referred to the Dennis Hull slap shot as a "heavy" one that would make it's way through goaltenders and their equipment.
Dennis Hull is one of the great interviewees of all time and definitely had one of the hardest shots of all time.
Center Vincent Lecavalier finished second to winner Zdeno Chara in the 2008 fastest slap shot contest with an 101.9 MPH shot. He has always had a great slap shot and doesn't always seem to get credit for it.
I've included another clip of Vincent using the shot in a real world situation. He's not just a shooting gallery shooter.
Shea Weber is yet another big defenseman with a huge shot form the point. A good portion of his offense hangs on that great shot of his. He lead Zdeno Chara at this years skills competition going in to the final round with an 103.4 MPH shot. He put a shot through the net versus Germany at the Vancouver Olympics.
The kid from Sicamous, BC has only been in the league for six years, but he and his shot have impressed everyone who has seen them.
Bobby Hull was another player famous for his devastating slap shot. He was the subject of the famed Popular Mechanics article that looked at the physics of sports. His slap shot in that article was recorded as having a top speed of 118.3 MPH. That would make him hands down the player with the hardest slap shot in NHL history. It is more than 10 MPH faster than any other recorded slap shot; all done in the '60s with a wooden stick.
NHL.com has some nice original footage of Bobby Hull in action.
Unfortunately I've never been able to find the original article online to see what they were measuring and how they were measuring it. I have read a report on the article that states that Jean Beliveau was recorded having an 105 MPH wrist shot. That's ludicrous on the face of it. Beliveau's wrist shot was not faster than pretty well anyone in history's slap shot.
I'm guessing the Popular Mechanics article either had some huge measuring errors or they were measuring the speed of the puck at it's fastest, just as it left the stick. The hardest slap shot competition is measuring the speed of the puck after it travels 20 feet to the net and has decelerated considerably.
So I can't with a clear conscience declare Bobby the possessor of history's hardest slap shot. His was though one of the hardest shots in hockey history.
Zdeno Chara is a mountain of a man. He holds the current record for the fastest slapshot in the NHL skills competition with a 105.9 MPH slapshot this year.
The only reason he doesn't make the top of this list is that he is shooting with a carbon fibre shaft stick while the top two both worked with wooden sticks. The change in stick technology makes it a job of comparing apples and oranges. The big man may be the strongest player ever to play the game and may have the hardest shot; there is no definitive way to know.
Al MacInnis broke into the NHL without almost anything but a big slap shot to recommend him. In the end he built one of the greatest careers by a defenseman in NHL history. No matter how good he got at other aspects of the game, the slapshot was always central to his success.
Al was renowned for his big boomer before the NHL ever developed the idea for a hardest slapshot competition at the All-Star Game. To no one's surprise, Al won an unmatched seven hardest shot competitions. For more than two decades Al MacInnis had one of the hardest shots in hockey history.
Al Iafrate was one of the most talented defensemen ever to play hockey. Born in Dearborn, Michigan he was a huge defenseman. At 6'3", 240 lbs., he was an explosive skater. He hit like a tank and had a legendary slapshot.
Al won the first hardest slapshot skills competition at the NHL All-Star Game in 1990. He won three of the first five events competing side by side with all-world slapshot wizard Al MacInnis. He beat MacInnis in the wooden stick era, which for me puts them a little ahead of Zdeno Chara, whose numbers come while using a carbon fibre stick.
Iafrate, when he won, had a consistently higher speed shot than the maximum MacInnis ever managed to produce on one of these competitions. His 105.2 MPH shot was the record at these competitions until Chara and new composite sticks came along to depose him.
Injuries and the lack of what some called true hockey sense limited his career and kept him from being one of the all-time great players in the NHL. Still there were very few players who ever approached the collection of skills that Al Iafrate had.
Al reminds me a little of a bigger Bobby Hull who played defense.
Al Iafrate is the King of the Slapshot.