So that’s the question of the Olympic season: If Usain Bolt lined up in a normal lane under normal circumstances, and Marian Gaborik lined up beside him in skates (we’ll assume in gear) on ice, who wins the 100 meter dash?

It first came to me in tweet form, and I apologize dearly to whomever sent it my way, because I’ve forgotten who it was. I didn’t respond at the time, because, duh, there’s an obvious answer…I just wasn’t sure which one it was.

I wanted to respond with something like “Seriously? A guy on skates kills anyone on shoes.” But then I pictured them getting out of the blocks and thought “Bolt would smoke him off the line, it might be too much to make up.”

And then I thought…that’s a great goddamn question.

So, the facts:

* 100 meters equals 328.084 feet.

* An NHL sized hockey rink is 200 feet. So, you’re looking at a little over 1.5 lengths of a rink, which is more than enough time to get up to speed and cruise while maxed out for a bit.

* Bolt set an Olympic record this year when he ran the 100 meter dash in 9.64 seconds, and he’s generally not much slower than that.

Now, in my head, I remember some conditioning drills we used to do when I played, and I’m pretty sure I used to be able to get from glass to glass in something like seven-ish seconds, so maybe Gaborik could get there in six. And by then he’d have momentum, which is huge on skates, so…who knows? It’s not impossible to think he could cross the line first.

(By the way, this isn’t actually about Marian Gaborik, that was just the example given – it could be Michael Grabner for all intents and purposes, the question is just “could the fastest guy in the League beat Bolt straight-away while skating,” so don’t intentionally misunderstand the point.)

I asked the question on Twitter yesterday, and got a lot of definitive answers from people (these kill me: “Dumb question, Gaborik by a mile.” “Dumb question, Bolt by light years.”), but it was Tyler Dellow (@mc79hockey) who I really got into discussing it with.

His first point: at the NHL Skills Competition guys are skating a little more than 100 meters (roughly) in about 13 seconds…but they also have to make with two big turns.

Interesting. Straightening that out would make a huge difference to their times.

But then he brought up what was the real definitive point for me: he sent the following video, which shows the all-time fastest opening 100 meter split time in speed skating:

9.37 seconds, faster than Bolt’s best, but….wearing speed skates, a slick suit and no gear.

Someone suggested that you’d be able to get a better start out of the gate with the shorter blades on hockey skates (which would come in handy in a short race), but I’m just not so sure that’s true.

That video was enough for me to come to a conclusion.


No human in the world could beat Usain Bolt in a straight-away 100 meter race in hockey skates. I think someone could tease a 10 second time without gear, at best.

Usain would Bolt off the starting line, and the hockey player would fall behind, then start to work up some momentum. By about the 75 foot point, the hockey player would start making up ground (which would be a thrill to watch), but with Bolt’s final kick, he’d never quite make it.

Someone with a great first three strides (a huge advantage) would be better than someone like Evgeni Malkin who has great top speed, but needs some room to wind it up.

So what say you? Did I go astray somewhere in my assessment?

Comments (39)

  1. Totally depends if Gaborik is in Tortorella’s dog house or not..

  2. No, I think you’re right there – both with the All-Star and speed skating examples. I think a fast hockey player could get to the 10 second mark if they really trained *for that*, but too much time is spent gaining momentum. 200 yards? 1000 yards? Different story.

    • Exactly. The longer the race, the more likely the hockey player wins…it’s just too tough to get up to full speed fast enough in the 100m.

  3. With hockey equipment no… Without equip, very possible!

  4. The real question:

    Who cares?

  5. Agree with you but would love to see Phil Kessel and Bolt hook up.

  6. I want to see this race happen!

  7. Weren’t some of the early fastest skating contests just contested from one end of the ice to another? I went looking into this but I couldn’t find anything but I seem to remember something with lots of pads at the end to protect a player who looses control. (I also want to think this was done when Horcoff won the fastest skater a few years back as well but Wikipedia failed me in this search.)

  8. This race might get me to watch the All-Star game. Just saying.

  9. Definitely Bolt. If the very best speed skaters in the world, who have trained their bodies SPECIFICALLY for short burst speed, wearing the most aerodynamic gear, can only beat Bolt by 0.30 (or so) then no way any hockey player in hockey gear could beat Bolt.

    To aanswer the question “wouldn’t shorter skates allow for quicker starts and therefore allow for faster 100 m sprint time?” the answer is no. It is self evident, in that if it shorter skates did in fact make for faster sprint times, then all 100 m speed skaters would be wearing them. The fact that they do not signifies that long is in fact better. It’s not like noone has ever tried it before, and if the results were there, then the short bladed skate would become the standard for the 100 m.

    • But that link wasn’t to a 100m race. The shortest speed skating race is 500m, so that 100m split is a little misleading.

    • the shorter skate would make a difference if you watched the video it was not a 100M race that is just the first 100m before the turn in a longer race… I still think it would be a close race between the two…

    • The thing about this is that there is no such thing as a 100 m speed skate race. They time referenced above was for a “split” which is just a section of the race. In the Olympics, the shortest speed skating race is 500 m. As a plus, hockey players don’t use the full length of their skate blade to get their first few steps anyway. They only use the “toes” of their blades for the first two to three strides/steps.

      I imagine a shorter blade would be useful to get up to speed because you’re carrying around less skate blade. The longer length of a speed skating blade is at its most useful in maximizing glide once the skater is up to speed and over long distances from 500 m on a short track to the long track 5000 m, this makes a significant difference.

      • Actually, the 100 m is an official speed skating distance in the supersprint category. The world record is 9.40 seconds, set in 2009. The split time from the article (9.37) is the fastest time ever, but is eligible as a world record as it was a split.

    • Except there is no such thing as a 100m race. I think 500m might be the shortest and the longer blades are for powerful pushes at pace not realy for short choppy get going from a stop strides. I think the shorter blades in 100m would beat the longer blades. I am still not sure that it would make the different on beating Bolt in that same distance.

      • Ok, maybe there is LOL. Is that a newer thing or is that short track speedskating?

        • Since 1990 or so, it’s done on the straight end of a long track. The traditional distance for straight line sprinting is 160m, but there’s no straight long enough for that on indoor tracks.

  10. I would like to see that race too, but M.G. wearing track shoes and U.B. on skates. :-)

  11. Awesome article


  13. TheScore should get this done. Make it happen. It will be a great sporting event and I cannot imagine it would not be highly profitable.

  14. The real question will be what is the top speed (in MPH) for a the fastest hockey player, including acceleration, and then what is the top speed of Usain Bolt including acceleration. This question can easily be done mathematically, and we could find out our real winner…

    Bourne, I think you should gather a little data, and do a follow-up piece. The numbers on Usain Bolt should be available, and I am sure someone has documented some hockey player top speeds/accelerations. I would be interested in what the numbers work out to…

  15. What about someone with great first step and wicked acceleration, maybe Seguin. Might be able to stay closer to Bolt from the start and once they max out, sustain it for the win?

  16. Usain runs 300 feet in 9.69 at his very fastest. Last year Carl Hagelin set the all star game record for skating around the rink (551 feet) in 13.22.

    Bolt at his fastest is 9.44 meters per second. Hagelin at his fastest is 17.33 meters per second. Hagelin would DEMOLISH bolt. And Hagelin has to turn during his skate, Bolt is running a straight line. No contest.

  17. more entertaining thought: fastest guy in the league on track, bolt on skates with a 90m head start?

  18. Next time the canal in Ottawa freezes over, someone needs to set up a 100 meter track and invite Jason Chimera up there.

  19. if you want a guy with the first three steps AND top speed.. im pretty sure we all know a few nerds who claim to have successfully invented a time machine lets contact them, and travel back in time to november 8, 1995 the day before steve smith ruined pavel bures knee…. ( not saying he wasnt insanely quick after that.. but something to think about ).. also if you wanna find something like this out just find 100 metres of straight ice and phone carl hagelin ( he’ll have to do ), he’s a professional athlete im assuming he’s ultra competitive and would like to be known as the real worlds fastest man

  20. and yes i know my english is friggin terrible.. cant win em all i suppose

  21. In the cold of the icy environment, Bolt blow a hamstring off the start and our hockey hero smokes him. I find ice to be a great equalizer-at least for those who cannot skate…

    Podcasts? Where are those stinking podcasts??? Oh yeah, it is summer, but we still want to hear about Justin’s trip to Kelowna and all the funny stuff that went down!

  22. Great topic, idea from

    Erik Fleming @flemdog7

  23. the hockey player would win.

  24. You write very interesting, the topics are cool. I like your page. For how long have you been blogging? How much time do you spend on this? I hope that I can use some of your texts on my web page. Yours, Ben

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