Shaq On Ice!?!

April 29, 2024

Thinking back to playing days, imagine how it must have looked -and felt – to opposing players to see our man Shaq bearing down on them in the paint? Now, as the old TV show used to say – “Imagine if you will…” the idea of Shaq on skates, in an NHL hockey game? 

Sounds crazy, no? It does to us. But TNT – watchers had a glimpse of what that might have looked like when the big man himself made a little surprise visit to the set of the TNT studio during the broadcast of hockey coverage over the weekend. 

Let’s up it this way – it made for a really impressive display. The big man with a big stick… ready to hand out some icy cold (pun intended) punishment in the rink. OK, maybe not. But they put a stick in his hand, and did a little background research on some of the physically biggest players in the NHL.

It happened during one of the between-period intermissions for the Carolina Hurricanes matchup against the New York Islanders. The on-camera crew was talking about – and trying to explain – the concept of “net front presence” in hockey. Now, in case you’re wondering (we are!), it’s just like it sounds: A guy standing in front of the net looking to obstruct the goalie’s view, and redirect any outside shots that come his way.

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To demonstrate the intricacies of this offensive role, the crew had legendary goalie Henrik Lundqvist stand between the pipes. Additionally, they had two former NHL forwards on hand, Paul Bissonnette and Anson Carter, who would have done an admirable job of doing the other half of the demonstration, if not for the arrival of a special guest on-set.

That’s when the TNT crew brought out O’Neal. The NBA Hall-of-Famer was just down the hall, in the same studio, doing playoff coverage for the NBA, so the timing worked out perfectly. They gave O’Neal a hockey stick and a new nickname. Bissonnette called him “Shaq Hyman,” a reference to Zach Hyman of the Edmonton Oilers.

Not surprisingly, a hockey player towering over the ice at 7’1″ would be very, very effective at that “net front presence.” A player of Shaq’s size would definitely be the tallest every to play in the NHL. Even the great Lundqvist, who isn’t small by goaltending standards (he’s 6’1″), stood no chance of seeing anything past the behemoth that is O’Neal.

For you NHL stats nerds, there have been three goalies in the league have stood at 6’7″, and that’s the tallest height for goalies in NHL history. So even if O’Neal had to go against them, he’d still tower over the tallest goalies in history.

Would O’Neal have matched his Hall of Fame-level of success if he’d somehow managed to play in the NHL? Probably not, but he was a skilled athlete, so he certainly could have developed the skills. But wow, what a sight that would have been on the ice, right?

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