MacInnis' wicked slap shot still awes competitionPosted: Sunday February 02, 2003 12:43 AM
Updated: Sunday February 02, 2003 2:46 AM
By Jamie MacDonald, CNNSI.com
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Nine hours earlier, Blues defenseman Al MacInnis was telling anyone within earshot, for the umpteenth time, that he wasn't precisely sure about why or how his slap shots came to be so fierce.
But the unassuming veteran, no hulk but too solid to be considered lanky, does have an idea about when.
The story of his knocking slap shots into the garage door of his childhood home is well-documented, but it was on the ice in midget hockey that MacInnis began to notice that his cannon had a bit more kick in its barrel than the other boys. MacInnis' coach told him to keep working on the shot because someday, “It might be your ticket to the NHL.”
At the very least, the shot did carry him to victory in Saturday night’s SuperSkills hardest shot competition -- his seventh such title. It is a shot has long ago taken on a life of its own. “That guy’s a freak,” said Philadelphia’s Jeremy Roenick. “I’m never getting in front of one of his shots. I’ll tell you that.”
In at least one respect, MacInnis is a freak. During a weekend soaked in as much glitz as the NHL can muster, with manufacturers churning out every technological equipment advantage under the Florida sun, with carbon-fiber this and composite that, the man with the envy of all slap shots is busting speed limits with a wooden stick.
“I tried using the composite sticks last year,” MacInnis said, “and I just couldn’t feel comfortable. I went back to [the wood]. They seem to have a little more give, a little more feel.”
On nearly the 10th anniversary of Al Iafrate’s record 105.2 mph shot in the competition, while shooting fourth of four Western Conference skaters, the 6-foot-2, 204-pound righty squeezed off a 96.2 mph slapper -- good, but no better than Jarome Iginla’s 97.3, which the Calgary winger registered as the first shot of the event.
Did Iginla think his lead was safe?
“No. No. Nope,” he said afterward, sitting in his skates and pads from the waist down, lighting up the room with what appeared to be a 1,000-watt form of appreciation for having been invited. “No, I figured [Al’s] going to come in and have it locked up.”
MacInnis, not one to milk suspense, wound up just as smooth as ever, and blasted a puck through what he called “heavy” ice, and cracked one nearly 99 mph. When MacInnis finished with his pair, it was up to the anchorman on the East’s team, 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara.
Chara challenged, but ultimately fell short with shots of 97.8 and 96 mph. As is becoming customary with MacInnis, he was again the fastest in the draw.
“I wouldn’t change that stick, either,” said Joe Thornton. “He just has a rocket and everyone knows that.”
As for capping the win with the wood, MacInnis said, with a smile, “It’s working out OK for me.” Just don’t ask him how.
Best of the rest
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for MacInnis, who in the evening’s final event, the breakaway relay, managed only a head fake before shooting harmlessly at Martin Brodeur. “I hit a rut there,” MacInnis said with a wink and a nod. “I wasn’t going to try and pull any dekes, so I just wanted to get down the ice, get a good shot, hopefully score, and get back to the end of the line, but, yeah,” he continued, in case we hadn’t picked up on the tongue in his cheek, “I hit a rut in the ice.” …
Thornton nearly matched former teammate Ray Bourque’s four-for-four effort in the shooting accuracy event, popping three targets in a row before finding it hard to hit ocean from a boat. Thornton clunked the post on his fourth shot and finished his round with airballs. “The nerves started going on me,” he said. “I thought I was going to grab that fourth right in a row, but unfortunately I didn’t.” …
The 3-on-0 competition worked out in favor of what would seem to have been the overmatched goaltenders. Most of the players tried to squeeze too many passes in from blue line to goal line in the unselfishly selfish effort to be both deferential and make a pretty play. At one point, thanks to all sorts of weaving and filling weak sides, Jaromir Jagr and Jeff O’Neill crashed into one another behind Marty Turco’s net. In all, through 18 three-man rushes, only four goals were scored. “I think,” said Thornton, “that 2-on-0s would be a little easier.” …
Marian Gaborik won the fastest skater competition. Then again, near NASCAR country, when you’ve seen one guy make four right turns, you’ve seen ‘em all, right? …
From the crowd meter: The Avs still gets the raspberries here. Among those receiving boos, in addition to Patrick Roy and Peter Forsberg: Marc Crawford and Rob Blake, the former no longer with the team, the latter not with Colorado when it won the Cup in 1996 over the Panthers. But, boy does this crowd still love Ray Whitney. …
Oh, and via a scoring system only slightly less elaborate than a quarterback rating, the West was won, 15-9.