Over the last 39 years, Getty Images staff photographer Bruce Bennett has been at nearly every major event in hockey. Having photographed a total of 33 Stanley Cups and 4,965 games in his distinguished career, there have been very few moments that Bennett has missed. By far, the one game people ask him about most is the famous 1980 “Miracle on Ice” Olympic semi-final between the USSR and the United States.
“In 1980, I was home watching the game in my bedroom,” said Bennett, who grew up in Levittown, New York, about six hours from Lake Placid where the game took place. “I had been shooting hockey for about six years at that point and didn’t even give a thought to covering the Olympics. Huge mistake! Watching the game, I was screaming like an idiot. My parents thought I had been shot.”
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 15: Cam Fowler #3 of Team USA scores against Sergei Bobrovski #72 of Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bennett, who is covering the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics as a venue photographer for Getty Images, got his own sort of “redo” by covering the thrilling overtime shootout victory by the United States against host-country Russia on February 15th.
“Simply put, it ranks in the top ten of all time,” Bennett said of the instant classic. “The incredible level of intensity with which the game was played was evident on the players’ faces and in their body language. What could be better than hard hits, a disallowed goal (too bad, as our images of celebration were rendered meaningless), overtime and an extended shootout?” With the rich history between the teams and countries, in addition to the amount of NHL players on each roster, Bennett certainly expected a great game. But not even he could have imagined that it would play out the way it did.
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 15: Evgeny Medvedev #82 of Russia fights with Ryan Callahan #24 of Team USA. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
For most of the game Bennett did not fully grasp what was happening in the arena other than the action on the ice. “I’m in my own bubble,” explained Bennett. “I shut down those senses [in order to have] concentration and focus (pun intended), as that is the key in big games. I am still aware of my surroundings…but I manage to block out extraneous happenings, because losing focus means losing images.” Using a total of six Canon Mark 1DX cameras in the game, including remotes, Bennett shot the game from his usual place – down low, up against the boards. Luckily, when T.J. Oshie of the United States scored the game-winning goal, it was right across from Bennett. Of course, like the thousands of other moments he has captured, Bennett made a great picture that ran in several major publications and websites following the game.
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 15: T.J. Oshie #74 of Team USA scores on a shootout against Sergei Bobrovski #72 of Russia to win the game. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
“I’m more concerned with remotes and networking issues and analyzing what has just occurred on the ice. From play-to-play, I evaluate the decisions I made on remote and photographer placement. After important plays, I think about which photographer or remote should have captured the best image.” Once a picture is taken, it is then automatically transferred to the Getty Images editing team at the Main Press Center. The editors sort through all the images and pick the best ones for the wire. For this specific game, Getty Images had four photographers in the arena, who took a combined 19,230 pictures – over 400 of which were sent on the wire.
Bennett, who has always been one to shy away from the attention, continually credits the editing teams. “The editors always save the day,” he said. “They look at a humongous amount of images from not only handheld cameras but also mind-numbing quantities of images from all the remote cameras. When photographers falter in focus, framing, or when reflections off the glass take their toll on what could be great images, or when there is a gem buried inside an image where a crop is needed to produce an image with impact, they take control and make the photographers on site look good.”
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 15: Phil Kessel #81 of Team USA celebrates after teammate Cam Fowler #3 scored a goal on Sergei Bobrovski #72 of Russia in the second period. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Unlike in NHL arenas, where there are holes carved out of the glass, Olympic hockey forces photographers to shoot through the glass. This can sometimes lead to issues with focus and can cause even the best photographers in the world to miss a major moment. “It’s an added element to shooting Olympic hockey,” explained Bennett. “It’s a challenge, as you have to trust your experience and your eye.”
In this case, with his endless experience, and his outstanding eye, Bruce Bennett produced another memorable set of pictures from a classic hockey game.
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 15: Russian and American players shake hands after the United States won 3-2 in the Group A Preliminary Round matchup. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
BRUCE BENNETT BY THE NUMBERS
4,229 NHL Regular Season / Playoff Games
261 NHL Preseason Games
192 International tours, tournaments, exhibitions
144 Olympic Games
52 Arenas Shot in for Regular Season NHL games
47 Minors, Juniors & College games
33 NHL Stanley Cup deciding games
30 NHL All-Star Games
21 Old-timers & Masters Games
8 WHA Games
1 Winter Classic
About Bruce Bennett
Bruce shot his first Stanley Cup final in Philadelphia in 1976 as the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Flyers. Since then, Bruce has covered 33 Cup Finals, 30 All-Star games and 4,229 National Hockey League games. In addition, Bruce has been the team photographer for several Stanley Cup winning teams including the New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, and New York Rangers to name a few. Bruce’s company Bruce Bennett Studios (BBS) and its’ archive of two million hockey images was acquired by Getty Images in 2004. Bruce was born in Brooklyn in and later raised in Levittown, New York. He currently resides in Old Bethpage, New York with his wife of 27 years, Betty Ann, and two children Melanie and Max. This is Bruce’s fourth Olympic games.