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The hardest shot in NHL history that never counted

by Chris Lund / Ottawa Senators

On March 12 in Ottawa, Ontario, thousands of minds were collectively blown when Jared Cowen — in the midst of Sens Skills' Hardest Shot competition — fired a puck at a recorded speed over 110 MPH. The shot was the fastest shot recorded in NHL history, surpassing Zdeno Chara's NHL record of 108.8 MPH which also happened on Canadian Tire Centre ice.

But wait.

After an interjection from the presiding official, Cowen's record-setting blast was to be taken off the board. The puck was not standard regulation size, weight or material. He had shot a foam puck into the net without knowing it was a foam puck.

"When I was shooting it I knew something felt weird, but then I saw the clock so I thought maybe that's what a 110 MPH slap shot feels like," said Cowen. "The next time I went I broke my stick. I felt like I used up my good shot on a fake puck. I got hosed."

He suspects foul play occurred.

"The guy who put it down obviously knew and someone gave it to him to put down. I'll put any money or Spezz or Philly," said Cowen. "I don't think it was meant for me, I think it was meant for someone else. It went black then white and I went and it was supposed to be white going. I think it was supposed to be for Greening."

Many of the players — clearly not in on the alleged prank — were blown away by the Cowen shot. A handful of Team Spezza competitors put aside the rivalry and skated over to congratulate the Sens defenceman, only to find out after the fact that the conditions had been tampered with.

"Oh, I was happy for him, I thought it was legit. I didn't know it was a fake puck, I don't know if anybody did at first," said Sens captain Jason Spezza. "I was pretty excited for him but I guess womp womp womp."

Intuitively, however, it seems that the point of the foam puck prank would be to have a player take a comically slow slap shot. A lighter puck made of foam is expected to float and flip over in the air, not sail into a net at speeds over 100 MPH.

"I think that was the idea from whoever was trying to pull the prank off. They thought it would be a 30 MPH slap shot. I would have thought it went way slower too," said Cowen.

To get to the bottom of this important mystery, Inside the Senate contacted Université de Moncton physics professor Alain Haché — author of "The Physics of Hockey" — in an effort to understand how it is possible for a foam puck to be shot at such an incredible rate.

"The lighter the object in a slap shot, the faster it will go, but up to the limit set by the whipping speed of the stick blade," said Haché. "The main difference is that a foam puck would slow down much quicker due to air drag than a regular puck would."

Haché also offered an explanation of the degree to which a puck would slow down after the slap shot.

"Taking 20 ft to the net, the foam puck would lose 10 mph of speed by the time it reaches the net because of air drag. A regular puck would lose almost nothing. From the blue line to the net, the foam puck would lose 30 mph, and from one end of the ice to the other, it would lose 70 mph. But if it were shot that far, chances are it would just flip all over the place."

"If the radar is able to pick up the puck speed from 20 ft, then it would not be influenced by the slowing down effect."

What can we take away from this?

The puck and conditions set up — likely under malicious pretences — aided the possibility of a shot being taken at a speed upwards of 110 MPH. However, given the effects of the air drag on a puck of that material and weight, it is conceivable that he may have actually hit it harder than the registered speed. Considering that one of Cowen's subsequent shots with a real puck was also above the 100 MPH line — though short of Mika Zibanejad's team record — there is clearly some legitimate, non-foam aided speed in his stick.

Could Jared Cowen give Chara's NHL record a run for its money under regulation circumstances?

Sens Skills 2015 is just a year away.

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