The morning after the seventh and final game of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, LightBox spoke with Sports Illustrated about photographing championship hockey and editing on deadline.
"The action of hockey is tricky," says Steve Fine, the Director of Photography at Sports Illustrated. “Hockey is different from the other sports in that it is pulsating action and not linear. The players are moving at you and from side to side simultaneously.”
Great hockey photos are the result of equal parts patience, photographic skill, and behind the scenes preparation. The overwhelming number of photographers covering the Stanley Cup Finals combined with a limited number of shooting positions at each venue provide a challenge for SI hockey photographers. Accordingly, SI photographers and editors must work to the last minute with the NHL to ensure the best possible coverage of the event.
"In total, we had four photographers shoot the Finals—Robert Beck, Lou Capozzola, David Klutho and Damian Strohmeyer," says SI's NHL picture editor Claire Bourgeois. One SI photographer shot at ice level through one of eight shooting holes cut in the rink's glass; the other SI shooters photographed from positions higher in the arena, even in the aisles next to fans. Additionally, each photographer tethered cameras throughout the arena, triggering them wirelessly from their shooting positions. These cameras allow for over-ice photos and other unique angles—shots that would otherwise be close to impossible to take.
SI editors in New York began receiving images from the game minutes after the puck drops. As photographers fill their memory cards, runners carry their cards to an on-site transmitter, who then sends the images electronically to Fine and Bourgeois.
"The images arrive in a constant, live stream. We begin editing almost immediately for our Big Ticket app and for our website," explains Bourgeois. Editors continue culling images through the night for the print magazine and other SI products. Ending the night at 2 a.m, Fine and Bourgeois have edited more than 32,342 images (shot over the course of seven games) to a group of 2,700 selects.
For Sports Illustrated editors, the best hockey photos are those that not only capture a sense of the game's speed, but also the skills, emotion and passion that the players bring to the ice every night. In this year's high-stakes finals, emotions lay very close to the surface, yielding photographs of both dramatic excitement and utter disappointment.
To see more outstanding pictures, download SI’s “Big Ticket” app – a showcase of amazing sports photography.
Previously on LightBox: A View of the NBA Finals from Sports Illustrated