Caps' Iafrate smokes the competition 105.2-mph shot is NHL's fastest

February 06, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

MONTREAL -- As the temperature dipped toward 15-below and the snow swirled in the streets of this glistening city, Al Iafrate performed like a whirlwind on the hallowed ice of the Montreal Forum.

Pride was on the line last night. Iafrate -- "Wild Thing" to Washington Capitals fans -- was out to defend his record.

"It was there, and I had to do it," he said after melting the clock with a 105.2-mph blast. "It was good to meet the challenge."

And there was more than one.

The first came from himself. When he was here as an All-Star in 1990, the first time these skills competitions were held, Iafrate won the hardest-shot honor with a blast of 96 mph.

Until last night, it stood as the All-Star Skills Competition record.

And then there was the fact that he was the first NHL player to hit a puck faster than 100 mph. He said that he didn't want someone else to beat that number uncontested and that he came here fully expecting to exceed 100 mph again.

Hartford's Geoff Sanderson began the hardest shot competition by registering a 101-mph blast.

"It scared me a little bit," said Iafrate, on the sidelines during the rapid-fire competition. "But everything just went right. I hit it good, and I guess I was a little lucky, too."

The achievement gave the Wales Conference a 10-point lead in the skills team competition. But the Campbell Conference still had a chance at the Coca-Cola Classic Skills Competition team award going into the final event last night.

The Breakaway Relay was worth 15 points, and the Wales Conference was ahead, 15-10.

That's when the Campbell players started scoring at will, then beat the Wales for a 25-15 team championship.

The night of good-humored competition, in front of an appreciative crowd of 16,767, was a warm-up for today's 44th NHL All-Star game.

In the fastest skater competition last night, Capitals forward Peter Bondra wasn't nearly as lucky as Iafrate had been in his main event. Bondra fell before he hit the finish line, ballooning his time to 22.2 seconds.

Iafrate clocked 13.85 in the event, but it was former Capital Mike Gartner of the New York Rangers, with a sprint of 13.51, who won that contest.

Iafrate led a lot of people to expect him to win this All-Star hard shot contest a second time. After all, he was the first NHL player to officially shoot a puck at more than 100 mph, when he registered 101.4 while qualifying for this event at the Capital Centre on Dec. 30. The stick he used in that competition already has gone to the NHL Hall of Fame.

In team scoring, Iafrate's Wales Conference held a 15-5 advantage over the Campbell early on, having picked up five points each for winning the puck relay, the hardest shot and the fastest skater.

The Campbell got its five points for winning the rapid-fire competition. Then it added five more points in the accuracy shooting contest, when Boston's Ray Bourque went 4-for-4, to be within 15-10 going into the final event.

NOTES: Each player on the winning Campbell Conference team earned $2,000. Each player on the second-place Wales Conference team got $1,000. . . . Iafrate took home an additional $2,500 for his individual award, as did Gartner in the fastest skater competition, Bourque in most accurate shooting and Minnesota's Jon Casey, who won a penalty shot tie-breaker, in goaltending.

Burning up the ice

At last night's NHL skills competition in Montreal, Al Iafrate's slap shot was measured at 105.2 mph. A look at how that compares with some of sports' fastest objects:

Object ....... ........ Speed

Jai alai ball ......... 185 mph

Golf drive ............ 170 mph

Table tennis ball ..... 105.6 mph

Tennis serve .......... 138 mph

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