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From the Branches: Barb Underhill gives us a physics lesson

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Clearly, she also loves the colors blue and white.

Toronto Maple Leafs Rookie Camp Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images

There are few members of the Maple Leafs coaching staff spoken of with quite the level of hushed awe as Barb Underhill, so yesterday’s profile from the Lightning website—she works for both teams and was originally brought into the NHL by Steve Yzerman—felt like an interview with a near-mythical figure. If you’ve ever wondered what, exactly, Underhill does when she “fixes” someone’s skating, this piece goes into some really fascinating detail:

“I’m always looking for the blade,” Underhill said. “In every sport there’s a sweet spot, and the blade has a sweet spot. And so when you hit it, there’s no tension on your body because you’re completely supported. When you are not on the right part of your blade or if your blade is not quite under you, then there is friction and so there’s going to be tension in your body. So I look to find that perfect balance point for a player where the skating becomes effortless, it becomes easy, it becomes more efficient, where they’re able to accelerate faster because their body’s lined up over the right part of the blade. So breaking things down in slow motion is super, super important to be able to see those details.”

Usually, any quote from a hockey coach of any type sounds more like it was spit out by a neural net trained on motivational manuals than excerpted from a physics textbook, but Underhill clearly loves talking about the science of skating. If you’ve ever wondered what exactly she did to turn Brayden Point from an average skater to, well, Brayden Point, she’ll tell you—it’s apparently all about his heels.

(She also has a Calder Cup ring, thanks to her time working with the Norfolk Admirals, which is an obvious sign that the Leafs need to step up their shit.)

Have some links for your Sunday morning:

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