best laid plans

About four months ago, I started to think seriously the Blackhawks in a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Right away I remembered a photo my good friend Dirk Shadd had taken from when Tampa Bay won the Cup back in 2004. Shot with a remote camera behind the net on the goal lights, it was a perfect image of the entire Lightning team streaming across the ice to celebrate with their goalie right after the horn sounded to end the game.

I pitched the idea of the photo to my editors in March, and started working with the Blackhawks to gain the remote position. Many layers of bureaucracy followed, through the team and the United Center before we were first able to attempt the camera during the regular season. Once the playoffs started, it continued to get more complicated. Sometimes wireless interference would keep the camera from firing, sometimes referees wouldn’t allow cameras in that position. During the Finals the NHL took control of the arenas, reserving nearly all the remote positions for Sports Illustrated and Getty Images, and it took several games and much convincing just to get a camera back in place for the potential clinching games.

When we talked about it months ago, Dirk also mentioned this little tidbit. Teams switch ends of the ice every period, so while you know which side your team’s goalie will be on at the end of the third period, they switch sides again at the start of overtime. Back in 2000, the Devils had won the Cup on an overtime goal against Anaheim, so the teams were on the opposite ends you’d expect them to be. But really, how often does the Stanley Cup Final end in overtime?

It happened again last night. Philadelphia thwarted my plans with a tying goal in the final four minutes, relegating Antti Niemi to the far goal when Patrick Kane scored on a laser from the corner (out of the camera’s view) and the Blackhawks celebrated their first title in 49 years. So instead, I have a photo of a referee and Flyers goalie Michael Leighton digging the puck out of the goal while the Hawks celebrate far, far away in the background.

I’m still not sure the photo would have looked as great as I had imagined it. It looked like half the team (and 20,000 fans) had no idea if Kane’s goal went in or not, so there was a lot of confusion and staring at the scoreboard in the midst of the celebration. But next time I’ll have a camera on both goals.

(Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

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