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The Effect of Hockey Stick Flexibility and Hand Position on Hockey Puck Distance

Greg Fehmer and Griffin Yakey

Macomb Mathematics Science Technology Center



Mr. McMillan / Mrs. Cybulski

8 June 2017
The Effect of Hockey Stick Flexibility and Hand Position on Hockey Puck


Many factors affect how well a hockey shot will be, including how flexible

the stick is and where the player's hand is located. Understanding how these

variables affect hockey puck distance traveled is critical to improving

performance and becoming a more skilled player. The experiment performed to

test these variables involved three hockey sticks of varying flex being placed in

vices. The sticks were pulled back from three distinct hand positions and let go to

propel the puck forward. The distance the puck went was measured. A 2-factor

design of experiment was run to calculate which values of the effects, stick

flexibility, hand location or the interaction of the two, were statistically significant.

According to this statistical test, stick flexibility was the only significant effect.

Moreover, the combination of high stick flexibility and low hand position led to the

furthest average distance traveled by the puck, while low flexibility and high

position led to the shortest distance.

Table of Contents


Review of Literature.3

Problem Statement......8

Experimental Design9

Data and Observations..11

Data Analysis and Interpretation..16


Appendix A: Prediction and Parsimonious Equations......24

Works Cited.25
Fehmer-Yakey 1


Hockey is one of the top four sports in the United States and one of the

top in the entire world. Whether it is played in a home country's national league,

or in the Winter Olympics, players are always trying to find ways to improve their

game. One of the most important things that all players try to improve is their

shooting. Players will practice for hours each day to make their shot the hardest

and most accurate as possible. Many factors contribute to how well a player

shoots, including blade orientation (tilt of blade), hand position (length from

blade), impulse duration (force applied over a time), and stick bending (angle of

deflection). As stated, the stick itself also has an effect, with stick composition

and flexibility playing a role in puck distance (Laliberte).

The purpose of this research was to investigate how stick flexibility and

hand positioning play a role in improving a hockey shot. Specifically, how these

factors affect the total distance the puck travels. Different values for the factors

were tested in combination with each other to determine which set of each

results in the farthest distance traveled. With this data, players can know which

sticks and how they are handled lead to the best shooting. This allows players to

be able to shoot the puck at their absolute best, which will improve upon their


To test stick flexibility and hand position, three sticks at three different

flexes are placed into a vice. The stick would then be pulled back from one of

three hand positions that are a certain distance from the blade to simulate the

flex during a shot. The stick is then let go and collides with the puck, shooting the
Fehmer-Yakey 2

puck forward some distance. The distance was then recorded in inches and a

DOE was performed to test which effects were significant and led to the most

distance traveled.

The data collected from this experiment will reveal which combination of

stick flexibility and hand position leads the highest puck distance. This

information can be applied to both average and skilled hockey players. Knowing

what factors lead to the best shots can help players to significantly improve their

skills. With the results, more people will be able to improve their shot which will

help increase the competitiveness of the sport.

Fehmer-Yakey 3

Review of Literature

The experiment tested which combination of flexibility (67, 77, 87) and

hand positioning (24.5 in, 29 in, and 34.5 in from the blade) yields the highest

distance of the puck.

To get a puck to start moving, Newton's first law of motion is used. An

object at rest remains at rest and an object in motion remains in motion unless an

unbalanced force is applied (Rader). The puck is initially at rest on the ice. The

puck then moves when an unbalanced force is applied to it. In this case, the stick

swinging down on the puck applies the unbalanced force needed to put the puck

in motion.

During the process of a slap shot, the energy that is required is conserved

in a closed system. The process starts with the initial raising of the stick, which

has gravitational potential energy. The stick then swings downward converting

the potential energy to kinetic energy. The stick then makes contact with the ice

prior to it hitting the puck. This causes the stick to flex which converts the kinetic

energy to elastic potential energy. Energy is lost to thermal energy between the

friction with the stick and the ice. Energy is also lost and converted to sound

energy when the stick and the ice make contact. The energy is then converted

into kinetic energy when the stick releases like a spring and rockets the puck

forward (Normani).
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Figure 1. Diagram of Conservation of Energy (Shooting)

Figure 1, above, shows a visual diagram of what happens to the energy in

a slap shot. The stick goes from having potential energy to kinetic to elastic

potential, while some is lost as thermal and sound, and ends as kinetic energy.

Figure 2. Stages of a Slap Shot (Crawford)

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Figure 2, above, shows how a hockey stick moves as a slap shot is

performed. The stick bends due to contact with the ice and puck, giving it elastic

potential energy. This energy increases the force applied to the puck which

sends it traveling further.

When the stick bends during impact with the ice, it gains elastic potential

energy. Elastic potential energy is energy that is stored in the shape of an object.

As the shape of an object changes, it has the ability to do work to return to its

original position (Giancoli 147). Both of the factors being tested are related to

elastic potential energy. The flexibility level of the stick determines how much it is

able to bend. The more flexible the stick is, the more it can bend and the more

energy it can store. Also, how the stick is held by the player has an effect, with

lower hand positions generating additional stick bend.


Figure 3. Elastic Potential Energy Equation (Giancoli 147)

Figure 3, above, shows the equation for elastic potential energy. It is half

the value of the spring constant (k) times the displacement of the object from rest

position squared (x). The stick with a higher flex would have a higher spring

constant, increasing the potential energy. The players hand position impacts the

displacement; a lower position means the kinetic energy that initially bends the

stick is focused on a smaller area. This displaces the stick more and increases

the potential energy.

When the stick swings down and hits the puck, it is applying an impulse to

it. Impulse is the measure of a force applied for a certain time. To calculate
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impulse, the force is multiplied by the time of contact. When calculating impulse,

increasing the force applied on the object or increasing the time the force is

applied will result in a larger impulse (Giancoli 173). In hockey, there are

impulses that are used all the time. When passing, stickhandling, and shooting,

an impulse is applied. When the stick makes collisions with a puck when

shooting, the stick applies a huge amount of force to it. The force is only applied

for about a split second. The greater force yields a higher impulse which

increases the velocity of the puck (Lester).


Figure 4. Impulse Equation (Giancoli 173)

Figure 4, above, shows the equation for impulse, also known as change in

momentum. Momentum is the quantity of motion and a product of mass (m) and

velocity (v). Momentum is changed by applying a force (F) over a period of time

(t). The combination of factors that produce the greatest force will propel the puck

the furthest.

Several experimental methods have been done testing the impact stick

flexibility and hand position on velocity. Worobets of the University of Calgary

and Pearsall of McGill Universitys Department of Kinesiology and Physical

Education used hockey sticks of different flexes to find which was best. It was

learned that more flexible sticks led to the highest puck velocities. For hand

position, Wu of McGill University and Hache of the University of Moncton both

found that lower hand positions create more stick bend leading to a greater puck

Fehmer-Yakey 7

In summary, during the experiment, the puck initially has no movement.

The way it gets moving is from an unbalanced force which is from the stick. The

sticks starts by being pulled back and having gravitational potential energy. The

energy is then conserved through a closed system through the process of

shooting the puck. Kinetic energy is the final form of energy before it acts on the

puck. The stick provides an impulse on the puck when it has the kinetic energy. It

has a massive force applied for a short period of time which creates a great

amount of impulse. The puck then explodes off the stick. The distance the puck

travels is then measured. The values are then compared to others from the DOE

to determine which conditions of stick flexibility and hand position allow the puck

to travel the farthest.

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Problem Statement


To determine which combination of hockey stick flexibility and hand

position will yield the highest puck distance.


The combination of high stick flexibility and low hand position will yield the

highest puck distance.

Data Measured:

The independent variables were stick flexibility (67, 77, and 87 flex) and

hand position (24.5, 29, and 34.5 in). The dependent variable is puck distance

(in). A 2-factor design of experiment or DOE was conducted to find the

combination of factors that lead to the highest puck velocity. A total of 10 DOEs

were conducted with 4 trials in each.

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Experimental Design


67 flex Bauer hockey stick

77 flex Bauer hockey stick
87 flex Bauer hockey stick
Standard black hockey puck
Tape measure
Blue painters tape
MMSTC workshop vice


1. Attach tape at 24.5, 29, and 34.5 inches from the blade to represent hand

2. Place the middle of the handle in the vice to secure the hockey stick of
appropriate flex so that the blade is parallel to the floor.

3. Place hockey puck so that it touches the blade.

4. Pull the stick back 8 inches from the 24.5 inch tape, 29 inch mark, or the
34.5 inch mark and release so it hits the puck

5. Measure the distance from the heel of the stick in a straight line to the

6. Repeat steps 3-5 as necessary.

Fehmer-Yakey 10


Figure 5. Puck Shooting Setup

Figure 5 shows how the hockey puck was fired. A person cannot be used

because each shot must have the same force. The appropriate hockey stick is

placed and secured in the vice. The stick is then pulled back at the appropriate

hand position and hits the puck when released. The puck then slides across the

floor and the distance is measured.

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Data and Observations

Table 1
Variable Values
Hockey Stick Flex (flex) Hand Position (in. from blade)

Low (-) 67 24.5

Standard (s) 77 29.0

High (+) 87 34.5

Table 1, above, shows the assigned values for each of the variables. The

flex values were chosen due to what hockey sticks were available for use. The

hand position values were chosen by where a hockey player grabs the stick to


Table 2
Hockey Puck Distances
Distance Hockey Puck Traveled (in.)
DOE Number
(+,+) (+,-) (-,+) (-,-)

1 171.50 164.50 103.00 89.50

2 141.00 168.50 92.00 112.00

3 140.00 172.50 80.50 83.00

4 169.00 150.50 82.00 127.50

5 134.50 152.50 76.50 81.00

6 143.50 152.00 105.00 118.00

7 143.00 150.00 91.00 114.00

8 166.00 171.50 65.00 96.50

9 175.00 165.50 76.00 112.50

10 169.00 183.00 105.00 99.50

Average 155.25 163.05 87.60 103.35

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Table 2, above, shows how far the hockey puck traveled depending on

flex and hand position. A total of 10 DOEs were conducted with one trial for each

combination of factors.

Table 3
Standard Trials
Distance Hockey Puck Traveled (in.)
DOE Number
Standard 1 Standard 2 Standard 3

1 128.00 135.50 120.00

2 116.00 126.50 114.50

3 129.50 115.00 119.00

4 135.00 120.00 128.00

5 118.50 114.50 110.00

6 135.00 117.00 135.00

7 135.50 119.50 119.50

8 120.50 131.00 135.50

9 137.00 134.00 136.00

10 132.00 120.50 136.00

Average 125.80

Table 3 shows the values for the standard flex and hand position. Three

standards were done for each DOE to ensure the data was not overly variable.

Standards were also done to make sure there was consistency and that there

were no extreme values.

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Table 4

1 No observations made. Everything went according to plan.

2 No observations made. Everything went according to plan.

3 No observations made. Everything went according to plan.

87 flex stick broke. Replaced with another with same flex and same

5 Puck rolled during the second trial. Redid the trial.

6 No observations made. Everything went according to plan.

7 No observations made. Everything went according to plan.

8 No observations made. Everything went according to plan.

9 Puck rolled again during the seventh trial. Redid the trial once again.

10 No observations made. Everything went according to plan.

Table 4, above, shows the observations made during the experiment.

Through the first 3 DOE runs, everything was running normally with no

unexpected errors popping up. However, when the 4th DOE was run, halfway

through the trials, the 87 stick broke. Data recording was stopped that day until

another stick was found. The stick was replaced with another stick. The flex and

the brand name were still the same. The only real difference was the color and

the name of the version of that stick. After that, there were two instances where

when the puck was launched, it rolled on its side down the path. This was an

easy issue to fix by simply redoing the trial immediately after.

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Figure 6. Placing Stick in Vice.

Figure 6, above, shows the first step of the experiment, which is placing the stick

into the vice and tightening the vise.

Figure 7. Getting the puck ready.

Figure 7, above, shows the second step of the experiment, which is placing the

puck in front of the stick.

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Figure 8. Pulling the stick back.

Figure 8, above, shows the third step of the experiment. The third step is to pull

the stick back to the tape on the floor which is 8 inches behind the puck. The stick is

pulled back from one of the 3 marks on the stick which is the low, standard, and high.

Figure 9. Measuring the distance

Figure 9, above, shows the final step of the experiment which is measuring the

distance from the blade to the puck. The distance was measured in inches.
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Data Analysis and Interpretation

Quantitative data was being collected during the experiment. The data

was the distance traveled in inches. The stick was secured in a vice, pulled back,

and launched a puck. The distances were collected by running 10 DOE trials.

The trial numbers were randomized before running the experiment to prevent any

bias. The data collected is valid due to randomization and replication. Each of the

seven trials in each DOE were randomized. The first, fourth, and seventh of each

DOE were always the standard. To replicate the DOE was repeated 10 times to

make sure the values were consistent for each DOE. The standard values were

used to make sure there were no lurking variables present. Since the standards

were measured at around the same values, and there were no extreme standard

values, it was concluded that there were no lurking variables.

Table 5
Effect of Stick Flexibility
Stick Flexibility (flex)

67 (-) 87 (+)

103.35 155.25

87.60 163.05

Average 95.48 159.15

Effect 63.68
Figure 10. Effect of Stick Flexibility

Table 5 and Figure 10 show the effect of stick flexibility to be 63.68 inches.

This was calculated subtracting the average distance for low flex from the
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average distance for high flex. Because this number is positive, as stick flexibility

increases, the distance will increase as well.

Table 6
Effect of Hand Position
Hand Position (in.)

24.5 (-) 34.5 (+)

103.35 155.25

163.05 87.60

Average 133.20 121.43

Effect -11.78
Figure 11. Effect of Hand Position

Table 6 and Figure 11 show the effect of hand position to be -11.78

inches. This was calculated using the same method as the effect of stick

flexibility. Because this number is negative, as hand position increases the

distance will decrease.

Fehmer-Yakey 18

Table 7
Interaction Effect
Stick Flexibility

67 flex 87 flex
(-) (+)

34.5 in.
87.60 155.25
Hand (+)
Position 24.5 in.
103.35 163.05

Effect 3.97
Figure 7. Interaction Effect

Table 7 and Figure 7 shows the interaction effect of stick flexibility and

hand position to be 3.97 inches. This was calculated by subtracting the slope of

high position from the slope of low position. The slopes of the line segments are

almost parallel, so there does not appear to be a strong interaction.

Figure 8. Graph of Standards

Figure 8, above, shows the values of all the standard trials that were

collected. The range of standards is 27 inches. While there is some variability,

the dot plot shows that the values are fairly close to each other. This means that

lurking variables did not significantly affect the data.

Fehmer-Yakey 19

Figure 9. Test of Significance

Figure 9, above, shows the dot plot of effects. The fences in the graph are

double the range of standards, which was 27. The fences were then placed at -

54 and 54 on the dot plot. Any value that was outside the fences were

considered statistically significant. There was only one value that was outside the

fences which was stick flexibility, so flexibility is the only factor that is statistically


These three factors would then be used to write the prediction equation.

However, since there is only factor significant, when writing a parsimonious

prediction equation only the flexibility effect and the grand average would be

used when writing it. (See Appendix A).

As seen in the dot plot of effects, two factors are statistically insignificant

and one factor is significant. Hand positioning and the interaction effect are the

two factors that are insignificant. This is because they are within the double the

range of standards fences in the dot plot of effects. The one factor that is outside

the fences is the flexibility of the stick. By looking at the dot plot of effects and

with how big the flexibility effect value is in the DOE, stick flexibility is statistically

Fehmer-Yakey 20


This research was performed to discover how stick flexibility and hand

position affect the distance the hockey puck travels. Hockey sticks of low and

high flex were placed in a vice to be pulled back from low and high hand

positions to launch a puck forward. The distance the puck traveled was

measured in inches. A two-factor DOE was run to calculate which factors were

statistically significant. The goal was to find which combination of flex and hand

position gave the greatest distance. It was hypothesized that high stick flexibility

and low hand position will yield the highest puck distance. This hypothesis was


The greatest and only significant effect was that of stick flexibility. The

effect value of flex was determined to be 63.68 inches. This means that the puck

distance increases by this amount on average when going from 67 flex to 87 flex.

This is because the stick bending creates elastic potential energy. The more

flexible the stick is, the more potential energy it can store. When the stick hits the

puck, potential energy converts to kinetic energy which sends the puck forward a

greater distance (Normani).

The other factor that was tested was hand position. The effect value of

hand position was determined to be -11.78 inches. This means that the average

puck distance decreases this much when going from a 24.5 inch position to a

34.5 inch position from top of stick. This is because a lower hand position

generates additional stick bend and therefore more elastic potential energy

(Laliberte). The stick bend increased the spring constant, k, of the stick, which
Fehmer-Yakey 21

allowed the stick to be propelled further than if the hand was placed higher.

When an object has elastic potential energy, the greater the spring constant, the

higher the potential energy there is stored in the object. When the potential

energy is converted into kinetic, the energy is then transferred and released onto

the puck. However, while this had an impact on the distance, it was not enough

to be significant. This is due to that, in hockey, the stick bends due to contact

with the ground before the puck is hit. In the experiment, the stick was held in

place and simply pulled back a relatively short distance from the different hand

positions. This had to be done to make sure every shot was the same as

possible, but this likely limited the impact that hand position had on the total


The effect with the lowest value was the interaction effect. It had an effect

value of 3.97 inches. The two lines on the effect graph were almost parallel,

which made it appear to not have a strong interaction. It was closest to the hand

positioning effect, which had a value of -11.78 inches. The highest effect out of

all the effects was stick flexibility, which had a value of 63.68 inches. This was

the only factor that ended being significant.

These results are further supported by current work in the field. Several

investigations show that stick stiffness and flexibility influence total puck velocity

in slap shots. Worobets of the University of Calgary and Pearsall of McGill

Universitys Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education each performed

experiments using hockey sticks of different flexes to find which was best. They

found that more flexible sticks produced the highest puck velocities. While
Fehmer-Yakey 22

velocity was tested for instead of distance, these results still apply to the

research performed in this paper as velocity is simply distance over time. As for

hand position, research by Wu of McGill University and Hache of the University

of Moncton both noted that the additional stick bend created by a lower hand

position also leads to a greater puck velocity.

There were some flaws and errors that occurred during the experiment.

One issue was that the stick was pulled back too far or too little in some trials

when running the experiment and had to be redone. Pulling it back to a different

length than the 8 inches that was marked by tape caused the stick to have more

or less elastic potential energy. This makes the puck get propelled to a different

distance than it would have if done correctly, making the data too variable. To

solve this issue, a resolution could be to put a barrier at the tape mark so that

when the stick makes contact it is known to be the correct distance.

Another issue was that 87 flex stick broke during the fourth DOE. During

trials the stick was pulled back and then a creak was heard coming from the

stick. After taking the stick out of the vice there was a crack running through the

top of the stick. The top then broke off after pressure was applied to it. A

replacement stick with the same flex and of the same brand had to be brought to

continue trials. What caused the stick to break was that the vice was too tightly

secured on the top part of the stick. This caused too much pressure to be applied

to one part of the sick so when it was pulled back the stick was still too tightly

pressed against the vice which made the stick give out and crack. To solve this,
Fehmer-Yakey 23

a solution could be to pad the vice with a soft material to make there not be as

much pressure on the stick.

Further research can help enhance the experiment if it were to be done in

the future. Running the experiment while using a different stick material could

see if the solution applies to not just the composite made sticks. Testing it using

a wood stick would be an example since wood is the second most common

material used for hockey sticks, with above it being composite. Another topic for

future research could be the certain blade curves, and the impact they play on

the distance of the puck as well. It can be researched and tested whether the

unique curves for blades, examples include P92, P88 and P29, play a role in

increasing the distance.

Fehmer-Yakey 24

Appendix A: Prediction and Parsimonious Equations

Y = Grand Average + Effect F/2*F + Effect P/2*P + Interaction Effect/2*FP +


Y = 127.31 + 63.68/2*F + -11.78/2*P + 3.97/2*FP + noise

Checking math for (+,+)

Y = 127.31 + 63.68/2*(1) + -11.78/2*(1) + 3.97/2*(1)(1) + noise

Y = 155.25 + noise

Figure 10. Prediction Equation

Figure 10, above, shows the prediction equation for the DOE. It is the

grand average added to the three effect values divided by two plus noise. A

sample calculation is shown for high stick flexibility and high hand position. It was

calculated to be 155.25 inches, which is what was found in the data.

Y = Grand Average + Effect F/2*F + noise

Y = 127.31 + 63.68/2*F + noise

Interpolated prediction of (0.5,0.5)

Y = 127.31 + 63.68/2*(0.5) + noise

Y = 143.23 + noise

Figure 11. Parsimonious Prediction Equation

Figure 11, above, shows the parsimonious prediction equation, which is

the prediction equation but with only the significant effects. An interpolated

prediction was performed to predict what the distance would be if stick flexibility

was 82 flex and hand position was 31.75 inches. The prediction is 143.23 inches.
Fehmer-Yakey 25

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River, NJ, Prentice Hall, 2005.

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The Sport Journal, vol. 12, no. 1, 2009. Academic OneFile,



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