There was a moment when the inevitable was going to happen. The puck was ahead of defenseman Al MacInnis of the Calgary Flames, and he was closing the distance. Inevitable. Time was suspended at the top of a roller coaster. The slow was going to become very fast. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeow. The hardest slap shot in hockey soon would fly through the air.
No one else on the ice would count except MacInnis and the goalie. MacInnis would turn his body, a fluid and quick movement, the hands lifting the shortened Sherwood Feather-Balanced P.M.P. 7000 stick in a blur, the red letters on the white wood invisible as the stick went up in an arc, then came back down, faster, quicker....
The middle of the blade of the stick, wrapped in white tape, would connect with the side of the black puck. The blade, bent in a legal one-half-inch curve and then warped at the bottom, scooped, would lift the puck. The effect would be that of a seven-iron hitting a golf ball with malice....
"Where'd he get you?" Andy Moog, the Boston Bruin goalie who was the recipient of this shot on this night, was asked.
Moog had come from his net at the far end of the Boston Garden to challenge. What else could he do? On a slower shot, a weaker shot, he could stay back, protect against the possible pass. He would have time to react. There would be no time with this shot, this shooter. Moog had come out of his crease and skated almost to the face-off circle to meet the challenge. Fifteen feet away. Maybe 20.
He lay on the ice for almost four minutes as the team trainer worked to get him upright after the impact.
"Right here," Moog said in the safety of the Bruin locker room, showing a red circle the size of a bread plate on the right side of his naked body. "Right between the ribs. Got over one set of pads and under another. Knocked the wind out of me."
Inevitable. The hardest slap shot in hockey. Al MacInnis.
"You should have seen me at the beginning," the 28-year-old defenseman says. "That's all I could do. Shoot. They called me up-just to be on the power play. I was a specialist. I'd sit around and sit around and then we'd have a power play and I'd go out to the point to shoot. That's all I'd do. It was like that movie...was it Bull Durham? No, not Bull Durham. The other one, Major League. Charlie Sheen. I was the guy Charlie Sheen played, the guy who threw the baseball so hard but had no idea where it was going."