NEW YORK — What I'd love to lead off with here is what I feel is my best photo of 2018 so far, but Chris Bradford called dibs, so you'll have to wait for it down below.
What I'll lead with instead was one of the most incredible out-of-town experiences I've had in my life, and undoubtedly the best I've had at a visiting stadium.
Tuesday night, I wrote about what it was like to be on the very literal ice level during the Penguins' ceremonies and relief efforts following Saturday's attack at Tree of Life. Thursday night in Brooklyn, I didn't quite expect to be using anything 'Stronger Than Hate' related in my piece.
That changed when I heard the announcement over the public address system at Barclays Center.
"Stronger Than Hate shirts will be sold behind 128-129 throughout the game with proceeds going toward relief funds ..."
Now, I don't normally roam an arena much, but I do always get myself a puck and a magnet at every away arena I visit. So, I thought it was a good chance to get my vulcanized rubber office decoration and see about the shirts that were on sale.
I made my way to 128-129, found the display of shirts laid out in front of $20 signs, heard how few were left and threw down my $20.
When I got there, the Islanders were down to a handful of small shirts, and a slightly larger handful of XXL. I grabbed my XXL, snapped (and I mean a quick snapshot) the photo at the top of this story and headed into the main shop to get my road souvenirs. By the time I grabbed a puck, a magnet (both right at register, by the way), paid and walked out of the shop, the shirts were completely sold out.
A line of disgruntled New Yorkers continued to form assuming they could get the shirts — they couldn't. It was truly unbelievable to hear people who have no connection to Pittsburgh get so upset because they couldn't buy a $20 shirt that benefited our city.
Thankfully, it sounded like the shirts would be made available at the Islanders website, so any Penguins or Islanders fans looking to purchase one will still have a chance when that happens.
Walking through Brooklyn earlier in the day, I saw a few Jewish residents. I wanted to say something, but wasn't sure how to bring up the subject. I wanted to say, "Hey, I'm from Pittsburgh and my heart and eyes have poured for you." But, I didn't.
Then, I heard another person talking on the phone about being Jewish and receiving calls from friends all week who wanted to check in on her and her family.
I realized it then, but not as much as I would when those shirts sold out ... Pittsburgh might have been the epicenter of the attack, but everywhere hurts ... and everywhere wants to help. I <3 New York.
BASKETBALL IN MIND
Now, on to photos I didn't take on my cell phone while reaching around a crowd of people trying to buy a t-shirt.
Barclays Center is such a unique arena for hockey because it in no way was built with entertaining hockey fans in mind. In a way, this is very much awful for Islanders fans. Forget the cross-city commute from Long Island to Brooklyn, because that is one of the very major reasons the Islanders will actually leave Brooklyn.
There are spots in the visiting end of the ice where there are no seats at all. There are banners, there's a car, but there are no seats. The Islanders also don't sell seats above those sections, on the main entrance side of the building, due to obstructed views.
Sounds like a lot of negatives, right? Well, basketball games at Barclays are completely different. Basketball games don't have glass or boards and they are designed to be a more intimate experience. Fans are closer to the action, journalists are closer to the action. But, not every photographer or videographer can have a spot on the baselines.
The solution to the photo and video overflow is to shoot from elevated positions. Those positions also offer an unobstructed view of the tight, constant action of a basketball game. While similar to an elevated position in Pittsburgh or, recently, Toronto, positions in Brooklyn offer more of a "slasher cam" look and allow more of a view of faces and horizontal action.
Take another look at the photo of Sidney Crosby above. In Pittsburgh, you likely wouldn't get a view of his face, but more of the helmet. This pretty 45-degree angle into the action still lets you shoot the game like fish in a barrel, but also gives you some of the intimacy of shooting from the ice level holes.
PHOTO OF THE YEAR?
Just recently, I started thinking about going back through 2018's photos and starting to pick out the best of the action, portraits and features that I've photographed throughout the year. It's nice to get a head start on something like that so I'm not scrambling through every post and every game when late December rolls around.
But, while pondering, it dawned on me that I didn't have the faintest clue what my best photo from 2018 was. Then, Crosby tried to once again win it for the Penguins in overtime, and he created my 2018 frontrunner with the help of Thomas Greiss.
Here's another look at that image:
What are your thoughts? Is Greiss stealing from Sid and stealing the game the top photo so far this season, or does another stand out for you? Sound off if you've got one in mind, and I'll see you in the comments.
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
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