Email Print Share

Science of NHL Hockey

The National Science Foundation, in partnership with NBC Learn, NBC Sports and the National Hockey League, explore the science and math behind professional hockey. This 10-part series explaining the science behind the fastest game on ice is made especially for students and teachers to use in the classroom; the videos will be aligned to lesson plans and national state educational standards, and are available to the public cost free on and

Episode 1. Projectile Motion

Unlike a slap shot, an NHL wrist shot isn't about brute power. It's about precision -- putting the puck in the exact spot where the goalie can't reach it. A wrist shot is also a perfect example of what's known in physics as projectile motion.

 View video (5:34 min.)

Episode 2. Vectors

NHL players are celebrated for their ability to pass the puck quickly and accurately as play moves from one end of the ice to the other. These pinpoint passes, requiring both magnitude and direction, are perfect examples of velocity vectors.

 View video (4:28 min.)

Episode 3. Kinematics

NHL skaters can reach speeds in excess of 20 miles (32 kilometers, or km) per hour, and during some short bursts approach 30 miles (48 km) per hour. Kinematics is the branch of classical mechanics that helps describe a player's movement across the ice by defining his position, velocity and acceleration.

 View video (5:26 min.)

Episode 4. Statistics & Averages

Being a top goalie in the NHL takes more than quick reflexes and nerves of steel. It also requires a firm grip on the numbers--namely, the key averages and statistics of goal-tending.

 View video (5:56 min.)

Episode 5. Newton's Three Laws of Motion

Whether they are sprinting down the ice, smashing into the boards or stopping on a dime, NHL players display an amazing mix of speed and strength. These athletic moves also provide great examples of Newton's Three Laws of Motion.

 View video (5:32 min.)

Episode 6. Mass, Volume & Density

NHL fans might be surprised to learn that the ice surface at a hockey rink is only about one inch thick. Scientists and ice technicians explain the science and math that goes into building and maintaining this surface through the long NHL season.

 View video (6:27 min.)

Episode 7. Hockey Geometry

From the passes NHL players make to their teammates, to the shots they take to score, players in every position are constantly using geometry when playing the game. The lines, angles and curves on the ice are also examined. "Science of NHL Hockey" is a 10-part video series produced in partnership with NBC Learn and the National Hockey League.

 View video (5:45 min.)

Episode 8. Reflexes & Reaction Time

NHL goalies have lots of equipment designed to help stop pucks, but their most valuable tool is their brain. It's what sparks the nerve impulses that travel to the limbs, allowing the goalie to see and react quickly enough to make a save.

 View video (5:26 min.)

Episode 9. Work, Energy & Power

The slapshot is one of the fastest projectiles in team sports. In order to generate a 100 mile-per-hour (160 kilometer-per-hour) slapper, NHL players depend on three important physics concepts: work, energy and power.

 View video (5:15 min.)

Episode 10. Force, Impulse & Collisions

NHL hockey pucks are made of vulcanized rubber and weigh between 5.5 and 6 ounces (160 - 170 g). During a game, every movement of the puck follows the laws of physics and illustrates the concepts of force, impulse and collisions.

 View video (5:05 min.)