Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 08/11/06 at 11:30 AM ET
Dom is like a Ferrari. Dom knows his body, and, Dom, you know. He goes down, he's like a contortonist, and he's down and has got his body going in different directions, and he's got to feel good, that he can make his moves, or he's not going to play.To say that Dominik Hasek's a Ferrari doesn't do him justice--nor "the groin."
If you’ll leave Beavis and Butthead at the door (heh heh, he said “groin”)...What hockey players call “groins” don’t consist of what’s under one’s athletic supporter. The “groin,” medically speaking, consists of almost every muscle and ligament from just above the knee on the insides of your legs, all the way up to your bellybutton. It’s a complex system of interconnecting muscles that allow you to walk,
Don’t believe me? Click on the link—it goes to WebMD.com.
Dominik Hasek’s style of goaltending is so dependent upon flexibility that he is, at 42 years of age, the equivalent of an older high-performance fighter aircraft with tens of thousands of moving parts. He’s like a Blue Angels F/A-18—if one little part’s out of whack, that plane won’t get off the ground, and in Dom’s case, if he feels that he’s got a little tweak somewhere, he grounds himself.
Dom pulled an adductor muscle last year at the Olympics, and he didn’t take to the ice again. But there was a reason he pulled his adductor, and it had as much to do with equipment as his wonky “groin.”
Hasek’s very particular about his equipment—to the point that he took the catch glove he wore during the Stanley Cup run in 2002 out of a glass case because the models Louisville TPS were making for him didn’t feel perfectly balanced. Hasek and the NHL’s other goaltenders had to deal with significant changes to their equipment before the 2005-2006 season, and the biggest adjustment for many goaltenders was the reduction in goal pad width from 12 to 11 inches. “PbGas” from Duke’s Hockey in Toronto was kind enough to provide these pictures:
The pad on the left is 11” wide, and the pad on the right is 12” wide. They don’t look that different, nor do the leg channels:
However, there is a pronounced difference in the width of the knee section:
The reduction in width most acutely affected the angle at which goaltenders’ knees hit the ice (and their “knee stacks,” which cushion the drop) when they “butterfly,” dropping their knees to the ice, preferrably almost together, and kicking out their legs sideways to take away the bottom of the ice. In 12” pads, your knees hit the ice at a higher elevation than your skates, whereas in 11” pads, your knees and skates are parallel, putting more stress on your groin.
The reduction in width at the knee had a lot to do with the groin problems that plagued Chris Osgood, Evgeni Nabokov, J.S. Giguere, Kari Lehtonen, and a few dozen other goaltenders during the 05-06 season.
Hasek seemed to adjust well to the reduction in goal pad width. His season-ending mistake had nothing to do with the NHL—and it had a lot to do with equipment:
Czech goaltender Dominik Hasek made it to the 2006 Winter Olympics, but his equipment didn’t.
Hasek borrowed old gear from the host Italian team to wear in practice Monday after his equipment was lost en route to the Games.
‘‘It’s probably somewhere in Washington, but we don’t know for sure,’’ the Ottawa Senators goaltender said. ‘‘I hope it’s here (Tuesday). I need at least one practice with my equipment to play the game.’‘
Jim Corsi, his former goaltending coach in Buffalo, lent his pads to Hasek—pads that were pre-NHL regulation size, over 12” in width, and they were also an older model, so they had no “landing gear” to cushion his knees when he butterflied—so his feet were a good 4” off the ice, and his knees were less than 2” off the ice, putting severe stress upon his groin.
Hasek made an even worse decision in deciding to bring his 12” pads to Turin because the IIHF hadn’t adopted the 11”-wide pad rule. Tomas Vokoun made some ironic comments about Hasek:
‘‘It’s an unfortunate situation. We are smiling right now, but if it won’t be here (Tuesday), it’s not too much fun for me.’‘
That’s because the gear he is waiting for includes some pieces he hasn’t worn this season in the NHL. International rules have less severe limitations on the size of goaltending equipment, so Hasek had some of his old pads in his bag.
Vokoun’s equipment arrived safe and sound and it was just as well. He said he wouldn’t risk wearing another goalie’s gear.
‘‘I would never, ever - especially in practice like that - go into the net, but everyone’s different,’ said Vokoun. ‘‘I wouldn’t be able to adjust to someone else’s equipment.
‘‘Just the skates - for me, it would have been asking for injury. So I’m glad all my stuff came and I can focus on preparing for whatever is going to come.’‘
Dom’s 12” pads and NHL-illegal catch glove and blocker arrived just in time for the Czechs’ first game, and we all know what happened next.
He went down going side-to-side, landed on his 12” pads’ landing gear, and kicked out his left leg, severely straining his right adductor muscle. Done for the Olympics, done for the year.
Hasek’s overenthusiasm for participating in a second Olympic Games caused a finely-tuned athlete who must have everything he wears “just right” to wear two sets of pads that completely altered the angles at which his legs hit the ice, whether butterflying, kicking out a pad, or dropping to one knee, and he paid for it. So did the Senators.
Long story short? It’s entirely possible that Dominik Hasek’s groin is held together with piano wire and dried bubble gum, but he played spectacularly while wearing 11” pads for most of the season. In 2003-2004, he learned the hard way that he has to, in his words, take “great care” of his groin. Last year, he messed up by wearing two sets of pads that he wasn’t used to over the course of two days.
He could blow out his groin this year, but as long as he sticks to the same NHL-legal leg pads, he’ll probably stay healthy.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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