In a series of articles, called Isle Be There, my intention is to focus on the different social groups that support your New York Islanders team & its players. This will also include current events, situations and personalities in and around the team as it relates to its fan base and community.
Bruce Bennett is a name all hockey fans know, and know well. He has over 42 years in the books as a professional hockey photographer. That includes covering over 4,800 NHL games in 53 different arenas, he has captured some the most iconic hockey photos ever taken. Bennett estimates to have captured over 42,000 photographs that have been used in virtually every major newspaper and magazine around the world as well as on licensed products such as trading cards and posters.
Per brucebennetstudios.com, “Bruce has covered a total of 37 Stanley Cup deciding games. In addition, he has shot 28 All-Star games, four Olympics and over 393 international hockey games. He has served as the team photographer for the New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers.”
Bruce was born in Brooklyn in and raised in Levittown, New York and is still residing on the Island with his wife, BettyAnn, and two children, Melanie and Max. If they weren’t already aware, Isles fans would immediately recognize the major role Bruce Bennett has played in the visual history of our New York Islanders since 1981 by looking at his rich portfolio.
“Funny what a little cotton and kerosene can do for an image. One of the NHL’s most prolific scorers, Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders, posed for a few frames that I shot for a newspaper cover that was commissioned by The Hockey News in 1980.” Getty Images- InFocus
“When stars collide! Capturing big hits on the ice is great, but capturing two of the league’s biggest stars is even better. Known for his patented hip check amongst other things, Denis Potvin nails Montreal’s star forward Guy Lafleur in an open ice hit – something we don’t see often enough in the NHL these days.” Getty Images- InFocus
So I asked my friend, Steve Feldman, team photographer for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on what he thought about Bruce Bennett. Steve has his own photos on about 500 hockey cards, in magazines, billboards, newspapers and on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
He replied, “Bruce is a great guy and the best hockey photographer out there.”
Per brucebennetstudios.com, "By 2004, via acquisitions and production of new photography, BBS had amassed a library of over two million hockey images dating back to 1900. In September of that year, Bruce Bennett Studios (BBS) was acquired by Getty Images and Bruce joined the company as their Director of Photography, Hockey Imagery."
Bruce Bennett Fantasy Stats:
(Through July 5, 2017)
4569 Regular season/playoffs
285 NHL Preseason Games
28 NHL All-Star Games
37 NHL Stanley Cup deciding games
1 Winter Classic Game
2 Outdoor NHL Games
TOTAL NHL Games Shot 4882
213 Int Tours, tournaments, exhibitions
180 Olympic Games
8 WHA Games
24 Old-timers & Masters Games
53 Minors, Juniors & College games
53 Arenas Shot in for Regular Season NHL games
36 NHL Amateur Drafts
1 Memorial Cup Final
1 Swedish Hockey league
TOTAL GAMES SHOT 5362
Bruce Bennett’s 2015 book, ‘Hockey’s Greatest Photos’ is sold out everywhere and won’t be reprinted according to the publisher, but he plans on a follow-up publication very soon. “I am currently in the planning stage of producing a second book with the same company who also publishes The Hockey News.”
It was my pleasure to ask Bruce a few questions about his history with the Islanders and about his legendary career as a visual story teller in the NHL and the great game of hockey.
Knight of Cups: How do you think the 2017-18 Islanders roster is shaping up?
Bruce Bennett: “The fact is Joe, that I just show up and shoot. Of course, I always welcome new faces in the lineup as it gives me something to focus on (pun intended). I was never good at looking at lineups and knowing which players are on what lines unless it became an issue in terms of photographic coverage. Meaning that if I had to capture a lot of images of two guys who played together I would have to be cognizant of splitting my time. All that said, I am looking forward to seeing if Tavares will mesh with Eberle.”
Knight of Cups: What do you think of shooting games at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn?
Bruce Bennett: “Except for a somewhat longer commute to games from Nassau County, and looking past some early issues, the arena has been great for me. I have my usual ‘deep corner’ position and my laptop sits beside me so I can transmit pictures during timeouts. I rarely have this option available to me in other venues. Everyone in the arena and in the Islanders organization has been super helpful in insuring that it would be a smooth transition to Brooklyn.”
Knight of Cups: In April of 2014, you photographed your 5000th hockey game. What was it like being presented with a jersey by the Islanders organization, recognizing your contributions to their visual history?
Bruce Bennett: “That was a very cool experience. It was very important to me not only because I grew up on Long Island and take great pride in living here, but also because Getty Images and the Islanders partnered on the presentation. Most importantly, my family was given seats at the game. It was amazing having them there.”
Knight of Cups: What was your favorite shot from last year’s Isles season?
Bruce Bennett: “It’s difficult to pick one out, but probably an image of Josh Bailey scoring against Detroit that was shot with the camera in the net.”
Knight of Cups: What were your top 3, all-time favorite Islanders moments to capture on film?
Bruce Bennett: “Forty-three years is a bit of a blur, but of course, the top moment was the Cup win in 1980. Second is covering the Islanders win the Cup in Vancouver and the late night trip back. Everything else ties for third place.”
Knight of Cups: Over the years, who were your top 3 favorite Islanders players to photograph?
Bruce Bennett: “For many years I maintained that Tomas Jonsson was my favorite player to shoot because of the facial expressions he would make. So, I think I have to stick with him as one of the three. Denis Potvin has always been a favorite of mine because he was such a smooth skater while also being the personification of power on ice. And I can’t leave out Bobby Nystrom, whose blonde hair flowed majestically as he skated up ice.”
Knight of Cups: Did you ever meet Al Arbour? Did you have any interactions you would like to share?
Bruce Bennett: “What an extraordinary individual! Tough when he needed to be, and gentle as well with a great sense of humor. I started with the Islanders in late 1981, so was their team photographer for the last two Cups and each year that involved a trip to the Arbour’s home for some family shots with the trophy. I still have the fondest memories of how kind and warm he and his whole family were to me.”
Knight of Cups: Who is your favorite all-time NHL player as a fan?
Bruce Bennett: “You can’t be a fan… and a photographer at the same time, it’s just not possible. But if I were to pick one, it would be Wayne Gretzky. Although prior to becoming a pro photographer and through my first couple of years of shooting I always loved Bobby Orr.”
Knight of Cups: What was your most interesting encounter with a player?
Bruce Bennett: “I was on a hockey player exhibition game tour of Europe during the NHL lockout in 2004. I was walking the streets of Prague on an off day with another photographer, and Martin Brodeur snuck up behind me and grabbed my camera off my shoulder. It scared the hell out of me. I knew him pretty well from New Jersey Devils games and I was friendly with his father who was a famous hockey photographer. It wasn’t like we were complete strangers but it was definitely an interesting experience.”
Knight of Cups: Strangest behind the scenes moment.
Bruce Bennett: “At the NHL All-Star games especially in the earlier years, I would spend time quickly posing players singly or in groups team-by-team. Those were usually in the very dated hockey pose I call “1A” - the player bent at the waste hovering over his stick which is planted on the ice. In 1991, during the All- Star game in Chicago, I was sitting in the corner of the rink after morning sessions waiting for a faceoff. I glanced over at Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Chelios as he was also waiting for the faceoff and he immediately moved into pose “1A” and the crowd cracked up.”
Knight of Cups: Most memorable interaction with a fan.
Bruce Bennett: “It’s always interesting walking through an arena to hear someone yell “Hey Einstein”. The similarity between Einstein and me is, well, purely relative. I prefer the more obscure “Hey, Mark Twain” or even the “Mr. Kotter” mocking I would get from the days when my hair was black. “
Knight of Cups: What are 3 things most fans do not know about hockey photographers?
Bruce Bennett: “First, we get into games for free. Second, our feet get cold rink side. Lastly, we watch the entire game through one eye.”
Knight of Cups: Of all the photos you've taken, which has the most meaning to you personally?
Bruce Bennett: “I guess it is the image of Wayne Gretzky in the locker room at a young age. The image was used on the cover of my book that came out in 2015. It’s meaningful to me because it reminds me of just how far photography and hockey have come in all my years in this business. The image is a poorly exposed black-and-white frame of a frail kid wearing high school hockey style padding. Times have certainly changed a lot on the photography side, as we moved from film to digital.”
Knight of Cups: What was your most interesting moment as a sports photographer?
Bruce Bennett: “Managing the Getty Images coverage of the ice hockey venues at the Olympics in 2014 in Sochi, Russia. It’s a far cry from travelling to a game alone and shooting and transmitting your own images. A gold medal game with five photographers, almost a dozen remote cameras- the fear of failure could turn a guy’s hair gray. Oops, too late. It was my fourth Olympics and the game plan of coverage can leave zero chance for failure. If you can’t get up for that challenge, you should stay home. Even without NHL players coming to South Korea in 2018, I’m already preparing the details of my intended coverage. And looking forward to it!”
Knight of Cups: What other subjects do you like to photograph?
Bruce Bennett: “I like shooting surfing and dogs in action at the dog park. It’s a great way to stay sharp and test the limits of your equipment.”
Knight of Cups: At what moment did you know you wanted to immortalize moments in time on the ice as a career?
Bruce Bennett: “I started shooting at 18 and certainly at that time I didn’t give it all that much thought. Just figured I could get into games for free and maybe make a few dollars. I think that it wasn’t until I did a less than stellar job covering the Montreal Canadiens cup win over the Rangers in 1979 that I realized I needed to be better, smarter, and faster. I owed it not only to myself and my clients, but I felt that I bore some responsibility for capturing hockey moments for posterity. And I still feel that way.”
Knight of Cups: Who is an up and coming sports photographer we should keep an eye on?
Bruce Bennett: “A few of the newer Getty Images staffers like Maddie Meyer (in Boston) bring their ‘A’ game every night whether it’s hockey or anything else. Working out of Phoenix, we have Christian Petersen who is as motivated a shooter as I’ve even seen. He takes his work very seriously, excels at shooting all sports and won’t be denied any shot. He also has that creative flair which I lack and am very envious of. Patrick Smith who isn’t a newcomer to sports photography but joined Getty only a few years back has shown that he can shoot all sports really well. He also has the ability to come up with some great action shots along with some new creative angles. I had him help with the coverage of the NHL Finals this past season, and he certainly didn’t disappoint!”
Knight of Cups: Do you have any tips for the average fan for taking pictures at the game?
Bruce Bennett: “Always fill the frame. Cropping into an image reduces the resolution and sharpness. Additionally, don’t be thrown off by the white ice. It will mess up your exposure and turn the ice gray. Pick an exposure by the look of the faces and jerseys and shoot with manual settings.”
Knight of Cups: Who would you call your biggest influence or taught you the most on your way to being a professional photographer?
Bruce Bennett: “A Long Island based photographer Joe DiMaggio along with his wife Joanne Kalish took me under their wing and were very generous with their knowledge and guidance.”
Knight of Cups: Who has been your biggest supporter away from the ice?
Bruce Bennett: “When I got started at 18 years old, my mom and dad were very supportive… that is, as long as I finished college and got my accounting degree. Then they afforded me enough time to get my photography business off the ground. My wife is extremely supportive as she sees firsthand how much time and effort I put in to being the best I can be. My two kids are always big fans of my work, and of course, my family at Getty Images has shown many times that they trust me and support my decisions when it comes to covering the sport.”
Knight of Cups: What do you love the most about your career?
Bruce Bennett: “Every day is a new day with new challenges. If you didn’t get the shot last game, you might just get it tonight. I still admire how goalies let one in but then bounce back and get the next one. I sometimes have nightmares for years when I miss a shot. But I equate what I do to golfers. They always say that it’s that one special shot that brings you back tomorrow.”
KoC: Anything else you would like to add?
Bruce Bennett: “Baba Booey”
A Baba Booey and a Fa Fa Foe Foe, Fooey to you Bruce.
I’d like to thank Bruce for sharing some of his story with me and all who support me at Knight of Cups.
Here's to capturing a few more memories to add to the storied history of our Islanders.
Bruce Bennett is available for assignment work through Getty Images.
Contact the Getty Images Photo Assignment Desk at firstname.lastname@example.org 646-613-4000
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