by barbaragarn

The JMS rules–and common sense for all pickup games–dictate no slapshots through traffic.

I want people to improve their hockey skills and mastering the flashy slapshot–hallmark of the hockey player–is certainly one of those. For all that it’s not incredibly effective (especially at our level!), it’s a coveted skill and probably the one thing most beginners want to learn.

But it seems people first learn the logistics of a slapshot, and then–later–learn the more important lesson: when to deploy it. It’s kind of like teens and sex; just because someone understands the mechanics of a thing doesn’t mean they should be doing it.

Knowing when to deploy a slapshot takes wisdom. You can learn the steps to do it easily enough, with good instruction and repetition. But knowing to take a look before you fire your that mighty slapper is the harder skill, and the more important one.

In the split seconds you’re deciding whether or not to throw a slapshot at the net, LOOK UP.
Are there people between you and the net?
If there are, don’t shoot.

The different levels will respond to potential slapshots in different ways.
In level 2, where people are just learning them (and usually firing slappers when they shouldn’t), some skaters don’t yet know to clear out of the way. The slapshots are less powerful, but also less targeted.
In level 3, I think most skaters know to move, and the shots are a little more controlled.
And in level 4, the experienced players are accustomed to seeing slapshots–some near the line of fire won’t clear, but instead go into defensive lockdown, with legs together, arms in and gloves protecting delicate bits.

And, okay: in level 4 and level 5, the shooters can usually be pretty targeted; if there are people in the vicinity (again, a nebulous and situational determination), these experienced shooters can aim to avoid them. And they’re usually successful. Note usually; it still doesn’t hurt to be safe and get out of the way. And, of course, for the shooter: it still means you should THINK FIRST if people are around, and SHOOT CAREFULLY!

If you find yourself facing a slapshot, the best decision is to get out of the way–while facing the shot (there’s a reason you have more protection on your FRONT than your backside!). That huge black bruise on the back of your leg is a mark of shame that says I was looking the wrong way… And of course, moving out of the shot path lets your goalie–who IS used to getting pucks fired at her or him–handle it.

If you can’t more–or you really, really trust your gear–then go into defensive lockdown: bring in all your appendages, protect the soft parts and tuck your chin. I’ve also seen fools dive in front of slappers. Jeepers, this isn’t the NHL with great physical therapists standing on the bench, waiting to patch you up! This is pick-up; let the goalie have the shot.

And from what I’ve heard from my goalie pals, they LOVE slapshots. I remember one goalie smugly noting that few moves are telegraphed more than a slapshot. “It gives me plenty of time to get in position,” he gloated. A fun shot for us skaters, but probably not the best one. How many slapshots have YOU seen end successfully in a goal? Better to be in position and watching for the right opportunity than take the time to set up the cannon.

So… should you do a slapshot? Well, it’s fun. It feels powerful. It feels like a real hockey player. Will it score? Probably not. Maybe someone can get a rebound? More likely the goalie will see it coming and freeze it for the other team’s control.

But can you do it safely? If there are people in the way, don’t shoot. If you’re in level 2 or level 3 and people are NEAR your line of fire, don’t shoot. In level 4 and 5–be careful, of course, but targeted, controlled slapshots are part of the game for an experienced hockey player. For those still learning–be careful and as always, err on the side of safety. Think about it: you know you don’t want to hurt anyone, even accidentally.

Like everything else, evaluate the situation and use your brain. Don’t fire into a crowd, and if you see a slapper coming, get out of the way.