Thanks to a Derek Stepan overtime goal in Game 7 in their series against the formidable Washington Capitals, the New York Rangers now find themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals versus the Tampa Bay Lightning and former Rangers Captain Ryan Callahan. For The Broadway Blueshirts, those summer tee times will have to wait at least a few more games. While continuing their season on the ice is the obvious goal, extra hockey can also benefit the Rangers on turf.
Golf and hockey can seem worlds apart. Massive differences exist regarding climate, surface conditions, and the likelihood of losing teeth. Sure, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez had a recent verbal disagreement and Happy Gilmore and Bob Barker had their scuffle on the links, but golfers rarely punch each other in the face. And yet the two sports have many similarities. The shape of the stick mirrors that of the club, and both move on a tilted plane around a fixed axis. The golf swing and the slapshot share incredibly similar mechanics…coil, weight shift, extension and an explosion of speed and compression through impact.
In the early 90’s, I had the good fortune of meeting and playing golf with hockey legend Pierre Larouche. I quickly learned that hockey players tend to be very good on the links. Hockey demands exceptional eye-hand coordination, and tremendous balance…qualities that certainly give an advantage on the golf course. Pierre was a scratch player who nearly qualified for the U.S. Open and made some decent money on the Celebrity Golf Tour. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Brett Hull and Bobby Orr are among many hockey stars who also excel on the golf course.
Could Tiger Woods lace up some skates and rip a slapshot past Henrik Lundqvist? Doubtful. But I bet former Masters champion and Canadian Mike Weir could put some heat on the puck. The two sports simply have a lot in common.
For now, I’ll be cheering on the Rangers as they take on Tampa Bay. Watch for speed, balance and aggressive hip rotation. One team will skate closer to the Stanley Cup Finals, while the other will step closer to the first tee.