Courtesy of Moon Golf Club

Sunday’s Best: Getting familiar with unfamiliar Flyers

When the playoffs come, I’m obviously spending much more time at the ice rink as a photographer. But, unlike the regular season (or when someone like Marc-Andre Fleury comes back to town), playoff hockey means I spend a lot of time around the opponent as well as the Penguins.

In Wednesday’s case, I spent the late morning getting to know the visitors from Philadelphia as they skated at PPG Paints Arena for the first of several times this postseason.

Shooting the same team all year at practice can get a bit stale, especially in a rink not built with photography in mind. As nice as the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex is, it was designed to be a practice rink, not for photographers to have a great experience shooting inside. There’s a “photo hole,” but just one we have access to and it is quite oversized, making it a risk not necessarily worth the reward. As a result, us photographer types are limited to shooting through the glass which has seen more pucks kiss it than photos taken through it — not ideal.

When shooting the visitors on the game ice, though, there’s access beyond what you expect for a practice. And in Tuesday’s case, that practice came with even better access, as I was the only still photographer in the building and accompanied by only a single TV camera moving around the front row of the PPG seats.

The combination of access, photo holes and shooting a team you’re unfamiliar with leads to getting some fun photos of different drills, different faces and different … beards (because it’s the playoffs after all). It’s really a good situation to get familiar with a team you’re unfamiliar with and will see a lot of for a couple of weeks.

Up top is a photo of a drill I really appreciated (and then followed by the rest of the practice photos in a new gallery layout). The Flyers finished practice working with two nets and two goalies in the space of a face-off circle. Two players would go after a loose puck and really battle trying to score on their respective goalies. After a few runs, it progressed to four players, two goalies in the same space.

In high school, I loved a similar drill going into the corner with a puck and trying to just out-physical my teammate/opponent until I came out with the puck. Watching this made me smile a bit thinking about some intense battles with a certain teammate who went on to play in the Flyers’ organization, and I always enjoyed when I got the best of him.

See you guys in the comments.