NHL: Game On!
By James Wiley
3 Feb 2013
After a 113 day lockout, the NHL and Players Association finally agreed to terms and a new collective bargaining agreement was reached on January 6, 2013 with final ratification on the 12th. Quickly, a shortened season of 48 games (down from 82) was announced and teams would have about a week to prepare for it. Yes, the NHL season is now underway!
As a child in the 50's and 60's, I was a hockey fanatic. It was the era of a six team league...Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Detroit, Boston and New York. Known as the original six, those years are now referred to as the 'glory' days of hockey. I knew every player on every team and their statistics. A family friend had two season tickets for the Leafs at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto and each year his friend would give up his seat one night and I would get to go to a game. What a thrill it was, a real dress up occasion. I also played the game as a kid and of course, like so many kids just knew I would play in the NHL someday. Yeah, right!
However, as a teenager, my new interest in photography would eventually lead me to a long and wonderful career as a photojournalist and sports photographer. After studying photojournalism at college in the early 70's and sending out resumes, I received a job offer from The Winnipeg Tribune. I moved from Toronto to Winnipeg, which at that time had a WHA hockey team that would be eventually integrated into an expanded NHL. They also had Bobby Hull. I had met Hull when I was in the sixth grade and the Chicago Black Hawks were holding an open practice at a nearby arena the day before a game against Toronto. A group of us asked permission to skip school that afternoon and went to the practice. Hull and the rest of the team were all so personable, gladly signing autographs as well as taking the time to talk and joke with us. Now, both of us in Winnipeg, he got a great kick out of that story when I told him.
As I mentioned, I photographed many sports and always with great enthusiasm, trying new things, looking for dramatic shots, different angles, etc. Shooting sports was like an obsession for me. I loved the unpredictability of fast moving action and attempting to capture it in a spectacular way. Of course, there was also "The thrill of victory and agony of defeat" to be captured!
I worked for many organizations during my career, The Tribune, The Winnipeg Free Press, Canadian/Associated Press, The Toronto Star, MVP, Canada's Sports Magazine and did freelance work for many magazines and corporations. Of course, there was much more than sports to my career and I loved it all. I consider myself so fortunate to have been able to do something I love for a living. When you work at something you love, the paycheque becomes just a bonus, not the primary reason for working.
Hockey to me, remains the highlight. I have shot the WHA, the NHL, Stanley Cup Playoffs, 2 Canada Cup tournaments and 3 Winter Olympics. Also, I have the memories of shooting and meeting some of the greats including childhood heroes like Hull and Howe as well as a new breed like Gretzky and Lemieux.
This essay is a compilation of memories. A few shots, selected from thousands, that I think creates a view of the game from different perspectives...on ice action, emotion, controversy, portraiture and one of my personal favourites of an aging Gordie Howe on the bench.
It is a celebration of the start (finally) of a new NHL hockey season!