Brutal ballet: At Stanley Cup Playoffs, behind the lens and net
Stanley Cup hockey. Few other sporting events can match the eight weeks of the unrelenting pace, no–holds-barred physicality, lightning-fast action and passionate will to win. The NHL hockey rink is a white canvas on which the hopes of raising hockey’s ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup, drives the hopeful champions to play through unbearable pain, summon untapped reserves of endurance and showcase feats of amazing dexterity and skill.
With this white canvas the backdrop for the brutal ballet of playoff hockey, let’s take a look at a few of the best images our photographers captured during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
1. The “White Out”
The “White Out” is a hockey tradition that began 25 years ago by Winnipeg Jets fans to help cheer their team to playoff victory, and taken to the United States when the team relocated to Phoenix in 1996. The popularity of thousands of fans in unison has since spread to other NHL markets as a rallying cry, as shown here in Pittsburgh as the Penguins prepared to play against cross-state rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. Is the adoption of the “White Out” by other NHL teams unoriginal? Absolutely. Does it create a beautiful image? Most definitely!
2. Moments in inches and seconds
“Hockey is such a fast moving sport, moments occur in inches and seconds. When you get to overtime in the playoffs you have to be ready for anything that can happen. Lucky for me it took place right in front of my lens. The action was so relentless and the celebration so crazy that when I got back to my computer I had no idea what I had. To my delight I found this image with the goal scorer’s celebration as he looked my way.” – Getty Images photographer Christian Petersen
3. One for Slovenia
Hockey has come a long way since the days when Canadian players, and to a lesser extent, Americans, largely populated NHL rosters. The 1980’s saw an influx of talent from Russia, Sweden, Finland and Czechoslovakia (later the Czech Republic and Slovakia), making the NHL a truly global league. Making a case for a new country is Anze Kopitar, the first such player from Slovenia to play in the NHL.
The Kings leading scorer for five straight seasons, Kopitar emerged in the playoffs with timely heroics such as this short-handed goal against the Blues, ending up tied for first in playoff scoring with line mate Dustin Brown. Playing on the west coast, Kopitar was arguably one of the most under-appreciated players, hitting the ice as most media and fans in the east were settling down for the night. With his performance in this year’s playoffs, Kopitar showed what fans in Los Angeles and Slovenia have long known: he is a force to be reckoned with.
“I was at the opposite end of the ice and watched the play unfold on the big screen over the ice. I held my breath as I saw Kopitar take his shot and trip at the same time, I was nervous about my timing due to the fact that the camera I was using only fires 3.5 frames a second (compered to the normal 8.5 frames/sec in our other cameras). Needless to say I was very happy to see the image upon downloading my card during the first intermission.” – Dilip Vishwanat
4. Emerging offensive threat
An undrafted free agent player signed by the New Jersey Devils in 2005, David Clarkson made his name in the NHL for five seasons with his trademark blend of tenacious fore-checking, unwavering intensity and eager pugilism. But this season, Clarkson added the role of point producer to his repertoire, notching a career-high 30 goals and 46 points to give the Devils scoring depth.
So does an emerging offensive threat simply take it easy by resting on his newly-found laurels? Judging by this look during a particularly hard-fought Conference Finals matchup against the rival New York Rangers, it doesn’t appear that Clarkson is ready to forgo his old ways.
5. The rookie
Stanley Cup playoff lore has a large list of rookies who unexpectedly play a major role in leading their team to post-season success. Patrick Roy’s stellar goaltending during the 1986 Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup winning season and Dino Ciccarelli’s rookie-record 21 points in 19 playoff games in 1981 for the Minnesota North Stars helped establish their identities with historic play in the NHL’s “second season.”
This year, nominated for the Calder Memorial Trophy (awarded to the NHL top rookie) as the league’s leading rookie point producer, Adam Henrique carried a strong regular season into the playoffs as a vital cog in the Devils offensive attack. Following up a double-overtime series-winning goal against the Florida Panthers in the first round, Henrique continued to earn his place among young playoff legends with this timely Conference Final series-winning goal against the Rangers just 1:03 into overtime, sending the Devils on to their fifth Stanley Cup appearance in 17 years.
So how did Getty Images photographer Bruce Bennett get the shot?
“The luck of the lens,” he said. “ I’ll share the credit on this image with the recently-deceased Sports Illustrated photographer Lou Capozzola. His wife graciously gifted me his lens that is perfect for many of the arenas I frequent.”
6. In-your-face action
“Overtime games are always intense. Every goal in a Stanley Cup Final means something. I try and watch as the play develops and follow the puck as best I can. I look for the open player in a prime position to get the pass and take the shot. Often it all develops so quickly that all you can do is react and shoot the scene in front of you. This goal was one of those moments. It all happened so fast that I just shot it as it moved. I wasn’t entirely sure who scored the goal at first. I had to go back and look at my images.
I was shooting from an angle that was a little further past the face-off circle than what is considered normal for shooting in an NHL arena. I was shooting from an angle that was a little further past the face-off circle than what is considered normal for shooting in an NHL arena. Because of all of the media attention a Stanley Cup Final draws, the NHL has to come up with some non-traditional photography positions in order to accommodate all the credentialed photographers. This was one of those locations. I could only see one end of the ice from this position. As a photographer, I am not invested in one team or the other – I just want all of the action to be in my end! This image is proof that I got my wish.” – Getty Images photographer Elsa Garrison
7. American captains
The 2012 Stanley Cup Final marks the first time in NHL history that two American captains faced off against each other since NHL teams began competing for the Stanley Cup. Having entered the NHL together as first-round draft picks in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Dustin Brown (Ithaca, New York) or Zach Parise (Minneapolis, Minnesota) will become only the second American captain to hoist the Stanley Cup since the Dallas Stars captain Derian Hatcher first did so in 1999.
“I was trying to capture the light show and theatrical entrance of the players. I shot this from ice level previously and thought a high rear vantage point would show the dramatic setting better. It’s very loud and dark and fans are yelling and clapping. A staircase conveniently ends at the spot where I waited. The entrance is on the opposite side of my assigned spot so I had to run back to my spot in time for the opening face-off.” – Getty Images photographer Harry How
“This photo is triggered by radio to a camera I set up hours before the game, secured to the glass around the goal lights. I needed Jonathan Quick to celebrate within the frame when the bench came to meet him. Luckily, Quick and Doughty stayed in the frame long enough. I have this exact moment from my ice level hand-held camera that triggered the remote.” – Getty Images photographer Harry How
10. Goalies, gladiators
“The two goalies, especially in series like this, are like two gladiators who have fought to the death. How very special in the sport of hockey that they should meet up at center ice, shake hands, and have the symbolical passing of the torch from the 40-year old Martin Brodeur, to the young American Jonathan Quick.” – Getty Images photographer Bruce Bennett
“A simple shot, and yet, it says it all.” – Getty Images photographer Bruce Bennett
12. Winning shot
“What a perfect shot to end the season with. That is, as long as no one is looking for left to right identification on everyone in the frame!!” – Getty Images photographer Bruce Bennett
Editor’s note: Mark Fischel is an Account Executive in the Getty Images Sports Department, where he now has to pay attention to baseball, basketball, lacrosse and other sports he has neglected for far too long. He joined Getty Images after 5 years in the Events/PR Department at the National Hockey League and 3 years riding buses in various doomed minor leagues in the Southeast United States. Follow him at @markfischel.