Hockey Goalies' Eyes Keep Slapshots at Bay

Great players keep their gaze on the puck, study finds

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THURSDAY, Oct. 26, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- He shoots -- he doesn't score! And a new study finds eagle-eyed goalies are often the reason why.

The very best ice hockey goalies are able to make big saves by always keeping their eyes on the puck, concludes a study from the University of Calgary in Canada.

"Looking at the puck seems fairly obvious, until you look at the eye movement of novice goaltenders, who scatter their gaze all over the place and have a much lower save percentage than the elite goalies," researcher Derek Panchuk, a graduate student, said in a prepared statement.

His on-ice study used wireless headgear with cameras that recorded the movements and object-of-interest of an athlete's eyes. The goalies wore the headgear while players shot pucks at them from a short distance.

The distance of the shot didn't seem to matter, as long as the goalies kept their gaze on the puck and on the shooter's stick in the critical seconds before the puck left the stick. Goalies who were able to do that made the save more than 75 percent of the time.

"Goalies often focus on physical things like improving technique, but they overlook the decision-making -- the cognitive side of things," Panchuk said. "I think this study shows that you also need to focus on your decision-making and your thinking processes. Having optimal focus is just as important as being in optimal physical shape."

The findings are expected to be published in the journal Human Movement.

More information

There's more on the science of hockey at the Exploratorium.

SOURCE: University of Calgary, news release, Oct. 26, 2006

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