Horcoff races to Fastest Skater title

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

Edmonton's Shawn Horcoff, who will be suiting up for the Western Conference All-Stars on Sunday, turned on the jets to take that Fastest Skater competition at the 2008 Dodge/NHL SuperSkills Contest.
ATLANTA -- After winning the Dodge/NHL SuperSkills fastest skater competition for his Western Conference teammates Saturday night at Philips Arena, Edmonton Oilers center Shawn Horcoff had one thought in mind.

“Sore,” he admitted. “The legs are sore.

“The second heat for me was a heck of a lot easier than the first one, that’s for sure,” Horcoff said. “I felt a little bit tight the first time, but it’s just a matter of getting yourself in a comfortable position, getting low and then taking three or four good strides to get that push.”

Horcoff, who admitted skating was his biggest weakness as a youngster, certainly made amends last night when he defeated Buffalo’s Brian Campbell in the final heat with a time of 4.395 seconds.

“Speed skating isn’t my specialty,” Campbell said after putting up a 4.865 in the final heat. “I’m more of a crossover-and-move-sideways kind of guy. I think Shawn heard a different whistle than I did at the start and that didn’t help my chances right off the bat. I didn’t get a chance to congratulate Shawn afterward because I was beaten so badly, I just wanted to go and hide.”

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The event required six participants to skate from the goal line to the far blue line. Despite the victory by Horcoff in his event, the Eastern Conference All-Stars defeated the Western Conference, 9-6.

“As a young kid, believe it or not, my biggest knock was my skating,” Horcoff said. “It was always; ‘Oh, that kid can’t really skate.’ So, it was a part of my game, early in my career, that I really wanted to perfect and I worked hard on it over the years. I trained a lot more during the off-season on a track and did a lot of sprints in the gym. I really perfected my skating in college (at Michigan State University).”

There were three skaters per team and the contest consisted of four head-to-head heats. Campbell, Martin St. Louis of Tampa Bay and Ilya Kovalchuk of Atlanta represented the East and Duncan Keith of Chicago, Anze Kopitar of Los Angeles and Horcoff sided for the West. The first three heats pitted one skater from the West against one from the East and the final had the skater with the fastest time from each team against one another. In his opening heat, Horcoff outraced Kovalchuk, the hometown favorite, 4.673-4.734.

“You have to get a good jump because it’s so short a distance, especially on skates,” said Kovalchuk. “It was great to stage this in front of the fans. This is such a great place to play and I’m glad they were here to cheer for us. I’m sure they will really enjoy the show on Sunday.”

Other times from the heats included St. Louis at 4.687, Kopitar at 4.715 and Keith at 4.998.

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.