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Take a shot at the science of hockey

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne gets face time in
Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne gets face time inNBC Sports Group

Why does a hockey player's stick actually strike the ice behind the puck for a slap shot? How quickly does a player pick up speed during a breakaway? The answers to these and other questions are explored from a scientific point of view in a new series of videos presented by the NHL, the National Science Foundation and NBC Learn.

"Science of NHL Hockey" is the latest video tutorial done up by NBC News' educational arm with the cooperation of sports officials, athletes and scientists. (NBC Universal is a partner in the joint venture.) It's made for students and teachers to use in the classrooms, in conjunction with specially prepared lesson plans. But you don't need to be in school to check out the series. The videos, anchored by NBC News' Lester Holt, are available online via NBC Learn, and You can also catch the segments this weekend during NBC's coverage of the NHL All-Star Game.

The scientific concepts at work in the fastest game on ice are broken down using a high-speed camera that can capture movement at rates of up to 10,000 frames per second. The super-slo-mo views allow for frame-by-frame analysis of the Newtonian physics and biomechanics behind the action. There's even a segment about the science of the Zamboni machine.

"Wayne Gretzky once said, 'The only way a kid is going to practice is if it's total fun for him ... and it was for me,'" Morris Aizenman, senior scientist for NSF's Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, said in a news release about the project. "'Science of NHL Hockey' is an NSF and NBC Learn project that continues our effort to make science total fun for students. We hope, after watching these videos, that students will also want to learn and practice science."

Among the players participating in the series are St. Louis Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak, Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, New York Islanders left wing Matt Moulson, Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne and Dallas Stars left wing Brenden Morrow.

"It was exciting to be part of a unique project that utilizes hockey to help educate students on science and physics," Morrow said. "It was fun to participate in and was very interesting. I learned a lot myself."

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Alan Boyle is's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.