Andrew Prochno discovered a unique way to break the ice with a new team following a mid-season trade. He became an Internet sensation by shooting a puck so hard it split in two.
Prochno’s strange feat occurred on Jan. 4 at Sioux City, just three United States Hockey League games after Sioux Falls acquired him from Waterloo. The defenseman’s one-timer from the left point eluded Musketeers goalie Matt Skoff, struck the right post and split in two.
“We were kind of joking around, calling him ‘The Savior,’ because he starts breaking pucks right after we got him,” teammate Daniel Doremus said.
“When it happened, you were so into the game that you don’t realize something like that doesn’t happen very often. It really started to hit us afterwards, when it started showing up on ESPN and Yahoo.”
Slow-motion video of the play explained what no one in the Tyson Events Center that night could. When Prochno’s shot hit the pipe, one half of the puck squirted through the crease while the other headed to the right corner of the rink.
The whistle blew, and whispers of “What just happened?” filled the building.
“What we won’t do to get some publicity,” veteran Stampede coach Kevin Hartzell joked. “That puck split in half so perfectly, you could give me a band saw and I couldn’t do it any better. I’ve seen chunks come out of a puck on cold days or in cold arenas, but I’ve never seen anything quite like that.”
So, quite naturally, the play became an overnight sensation on the Internet. The soft-spoken 5-foot-11, 172-pound defenseman from Shorewood, Minn., achieved rock star status within the hockey world.
The video also surfaced on YouTube, NHL.com and ESPN’s SportsCenter.
“It was definitely a weird feeling,” said Prochno, who will play at St. Cloud State University following his time in the USHL. “When I initially broke the puck, I thought, ‘This probably happens all the time.’ But I guess it doesn’t.
“I was actually very surprised by how quickly it spread on the Internet. I got a bunch of texts from my buddies telling me, ‘Hey, check this out. You’re on such-and-such Web site.’ I had to check it out, because I had no idea it’d blow up like that.”
One Twin Cities-based television station, Fox 9 News, took the video one step further and asked University of Minnesota physics professor Robert Gehrz to try a MythBusters-inspired experiment on a puck. Gehrz used liquid nitrogen to freeze the puck to 300 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) and hit it as hard as he could with a hammer. He took a small chunk out of the edge, but the puck did not split.
“Based on this experiment,” Gehrz said, “the freezing temperature of the puck had almost nothing to do with it. It was a flawed puck.”
So, exactly how else would you explain it?
Prochno will be the first to admit the freak play wasn’t some feat of extraordinary strength. During a skills competition at Minnetonka High School last season, he had his shot clocked around 90 mph. Several NHL players exceed 100 mph and haven’t broken
“I really don’t know how to explain it,” Prochno said. “I just got a pass from the corner from [Brent] Darnell and took a regular one-timer. Maybe it hit the post just right. I have no idea how it could have happened.”
Prochno said he doesn’t have any specific plans for the puck just yet. But he hopes it triggers a string of more once-in-a-lifetime achievements.
“Our trainer still has it, but I’ll probably give it to my mom,” Prochno said. “She’ll do something really cool with it, like put it in a little plaque or something.
“I’m a big golfer in the summertime. I’m not very good, but I like to go golfing. I’ve never gotten a hole-in-one, but maybe my luck will turn around because of this and I’ll get my first one.”