This isn’t really about one specific hockey game, or about one specific event. I sort of want to talk about hockey in general and more or less why I love covering hockey games. Whether it’s at MSU or elsewhere.
Let’s talk about flow. I spent a good fifteen minutes searching for this photo, because I had the perfect one. Meet winter sports best hair 2012/2013 season, now junior (!!! pretty sure he was a freshman here??) goaltender Jake Hildebrand:
Maybe it’s just because I’m generally too lazy to cut my hair, but I can grow a pretty solid flow for the hockey season if I want to. But just like baseball has chew and gum and spitting, and football has end zone dancing, hockey has flow.
Okay, maybe it’s not that. Maybe it’s the fact that most of my childhood sports experiences were through hockey games. My dad’s boss would get season tickets, we would occasionally buy them off of him and head out to the games. Yelling along with the crowd at the referees during a Bull Shit chant was probably my first swear word. Waddling through the locker room tours in a personalized Maltby jersey that was three sizes too big was my first Behind Closed Doors experience. My dream job would to be a team photographer for one of the NHL teams. Preferably the Red Wings. But I would settle for anyone (Yes, even the Blackhawks, though I would hesitate for a few seconds before saying yes and probably end up wearing Red Wings apparel beneath my external clothing).
Keep dreaming, right?
In all seriousness, coming here to MSU and finally being able to understand a sport — finally knowing how to photograph something and actually make a useable frame. It was enthralling. Covering hockey was probably the only time I felt like I sort of knew what I was doing (To a very small degree).
Sports photos are all about anticipation — not necessarily knowing where the puck is, but knowing where the puck is going to be.
I’m not kidding when I say that the MSU hockey team is the team I’ve “grown up with” here at MSU. I talked about it a while ago, where I got so used to writing “Freshman goaltender Jake Hildebrand” and “Freshman forward Michael Ferrantino.” Both of them are juniors, one of them’s a team captain.
Where the hell did all that time go?
It got tossed around at the rink. All of these purple tags? Last hockey season. If I didn’t shoot it, it wasn’t covered. There were two that someone else shot. Everything else was time spent ducking pucks.
I’m not kidding when I say I maybe missed five home games this past season. I went from media day to senior night, barely missing a step in between. My photos grew, the team grew. I no longer had to pick up rosters on my way in. I could give names, nicknames, positions, numbers, and probably even where a few of them are from. I can still do that.
When you spend so much time with one team they become a part of you — you can anticipate them better. You know who to rely on for scoring opportunities, you know who is going to be the one that skates the puck down the ice in a breakaway attempt, you know when they’re going to pull Hildy out and throw Yanakeff in the net.
I could tell, as soon as I walked away from the glass, that Will Yanakeff was crying slightly as he skated off the ice in a comeback win against U of M.
The officials knew me by name.
Yes, even this guy.
People started to notice me. Players and refs would spot my camera and smile.
My absolute favorite story is from the 2012-2013 season. I was sent, as a last minute decision, to cover the CCHA tournament in Miami, Ohio. My first travel experience. Here’s an anecdote.
The first game — I didn’t have to send between periods, so I sort of wandered around one side of the rink looking for a place to shoot. The glass was rough — stained blue and moveable, so it would provide for an awkward reflection no matter how you tried to angle your camera.
I paused on Michigan State’s starting side to take in my surroundings and someone approached me.
“Hey. You should take pictures of number 20.”
“Number 20. On Michigan State….”
“He’s my son. You here for State?”
The man was Michael Ferrantino’s father — aka: Multibillionaire.
“Who do you work for?”
“Michigan State’s newspaper. The State News.”
“Got a business card?”
Of course not? Who was I? A professional? (Let’s just say I ordered business cards after this experience, because who doesn’t have those?) “No, but I can write down a website for you so that you can look at photos. It’s just statenews.com.”
We parted ways, the game finished.
The next day: Same thing. I wandered around between periods, looking for any type of features of fans and, not going to lie, trying to spot the parents of the athletes.
Chris Chelios (Yeah, him.) had approached me. I had seen that man skate from the nosebleeds of Joe Louis Arena, I had eaten at his damn restaurant. If Ferrantino was a billionaire, Chelios had the name to back him up. And for some reason he was talking to me (All thanks to Mr. Ferrantino, bless his soul).
“I’m Chris Chelios. I’m Dean and Jake’s dad.”
And this is too stupid to make up: “I know who you are…”
“I heard you shoot for Michigan State. Do you have a card?”
Alas, the lack of business cards returned to haunt me. “I don’t, I’m really sorry. I can write down TSN’s website and my portfolio site for you and bring it to you at the next intermission if you want? At the end of the game.”
“You can just give it to Jake or Dean if you want.”
An overestimation of how often I talked to his kids, but the sentiment was appreciated and almost made me laugh. I was a lowly photographer and Mr. Chelios thought I got to talk to his kids. In my dreams.
I did. I gave Chris Chelios a few websites, handwritten on a piece of paper. And as I walked away I awkwardly dialed my dad to tell him that Chris Chelios just introduced himself to me. And I freaked out.
Since then I’ve been to Michigan’s Yost Ice Arena ;
Comerica Park ;
and the Joe Louis Arena (!!!!!!!!) ;
All in all, the hockey experience has been the one that’s been the kindest. Between the people and the wonderful SID, the players as they grow and gain experience, and even all of the places and faces I get to see.
Plus look at these goofy humans. Just look at them. Look at how adorable they are in front of a camera.
(^ This is probably my favorite outtake photo ever, by the way)