“My passion for the game and my passion for photography is what’s driven me to ensure that I maximize every opportunity I’m given to shoot.”
After 40 years as a hockey photographer, Bruce Bennett has some impressive stats: He has shot 35 Stanley Cup deciding games, 26 All-Star games, 180 Olympic games, and earlier this year he shot his 5,000th hockey game. Bennett’s new book, Hockey’s Greatest Photos: The Bruce Bennett Collection, is a visual diary of those 5,000 games, paying tribute to some of the most significant moments in hockey history.
S&T: Wayne Gretzky and Martin Brodeur, two of hockey’s greatest players of all time, wrote the forward to your book. How did this come about and what is your relationship with them like?
BB: Gretzky and I crossed paths throughout the years and I became very friendly with his business manager, Mike Barnett. Every year I go out to photograph Gretzky’s fantasy camp, and have maintained a great professional relationship with him. He’s just a genuinely wonderful human being. I had Barnett ask him if he would write the forward and Gretzky’s reply was, “Anything Bruce wants, I’m up for.” That felt really good to hear.
For Martin Brodeur, I was actually friendly with his father, Denny, who was a photographer for the Montreal Canadiens. When I asked Martin to write the forward, I think he was thrilled. He provided a very interesting perspective because he could bring in all the experiences of watching his father.
S&T: Are there any images you are particularly proud of?
BB: One of my favorite photos is of Bobby Nystrom celebrating after scoring the winning goal for the New York Islanders in 1980. I was brought up on Long Island so it was difficult for me to separate my personal feelings from the moment, but I was able to do it, and got a great black–and-white shot.
S&T: There are a lot of limitations in shooting a hockey game. What is your strategy for getting a great shot?
BB: Knowledge and experience are key. Over time, you start to know what moves certain players will make and where to position yourself so you lessen the chance of failure. For example, I know when Ovechkin scores, he turns around and skates in the other direction with his hand up.
You’re going to miss a certain percentage of shots, but to miss something when it’s right in front of you, there’s no excuse other than you weren’t on your game. If you’re not doing your best then someone will beat you to an image, and nothing hurts more. Well, maybe getting hit in the head with a puck hurts more. I can attest to that.
S&T: After 40 years, how do you keep yourself interested and your images fresh?
BB: Over the last couple of years, I’ve tried things like infrared photography and in-camera multiple exposures. I’ve also experimented with putting the camera in unique places like in the scoreboard and from above the hockey net. When the teams allow you to be creative and produce great imagery, that brings you back game after game and lights a fire under you to keep producing new material and do something different.
S&T: You’ve already accomplished so much in your career. Is there anything else you would like to achieve?
BB: The 5,000 games I already shot included NHL regular season, preseason, international games, Olympic Games and World championships, so the next thing would be to shoot 5,000 NHL games. Rule number one: you always need a target, whether it’s professionally or personally. You always need a target or you lose your focus.
See more of the amazing moments captured throughout Bruce Bennett’s career in Hockey’s Greatest Photos: The Bruce Bennett Collection, available now.