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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2003-06-30

Sixty-One Days
By Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register

Photo by Kevin Sullivan / Orange County Register

Photo by Kevin Sullivan / Orange County Register

Ducks Petr Sykora rejoices after scoring the Ducks fifth goal of game in the third period. The Mighty Ducks beat New Jersey 5-2 in Game 6.
I got on my first plane in the early morning hours of April 9th hoping the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, the Disney-themed joke of the NHL, could at least make their first-round playoff series against the Detroit Red Wings interesting. A little over two-months later, flying back from New Jersey after the heart-wrenching Game 7 loss, I was asking myself what the hell had happened?

I quickly realized that covering playoff hockey by myself was going to be an incredible challenge. Lots of ice, a tiny-ass puck that likes to hide amongst equipment and stagnant shooting positions made the learning curve a bit steep. Toss in fans that like to block your shot plus the occasional hangover and it really got difficult.

My journey began on the streets of Detroit - home of the defending Stanley Cup champions. The Orange County Register newsroom has a healthy number of recovering Detroit addicts, and, just like the city, I think they are still in denial at being swept by the upstart Ducks.

The highlight of the opening round was getting to shoot in Joe Louis Arena. It truly is Hockeytown USA. But that's about it. Besides the Red Wings, what on earth does that town have to be proud of? It wasn't even winter and I was still extremely glad not to go back for Game 5.

After a mere four games, I was already noticing that all my photos were starting to look alike. For the most part you were shooting from similar spots and getting very similar pictures game to game. Shooting positions were limited and varied venue to venue. Sometimes you had fans to deal with, other times you were shooting through glass. Also, sitting next to a dozen or so other photographers isn't exactly the best way to get unique pictures. All these factors made things more difficult.

My solution was to start using remote cameras to try and increase my chances of not missing photos. After the first round, I had at least two cameras in the rafters at all times. They usually gave me a much cleaner angle on both goals and more importantly, options when editing my take.

Still in shock from sweeping Detroit, I headed to Dallas where I promptly destroyed my laptop moments after sending my quintuple-overtime game 1 photos.

Photo by Kevin Sullivan / Orange County Register

Photo by Kevin Sullivan / Orange County Register

Kevin at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Mich. Thursday April 11, 2003.
Without boring you with the details, let's just say that I know for a fact that a G4 titanium cannot stand a drop of more than four feet, especially if its launched through the air and lands on concrete. Your best friend in stressful times such as this? Fed-Ex. Thanks to Saturday delivery, I had a replacement laptop in hand three hours before the start of Game 2.

After the first two rounds, something else I realized was just how lucky I am to work for a paper on the West coast. I had never appreciated the time zones enough. Having three extra hours to allow for overtimes and editing made my job a lot easier. I learned to never utter the dreaded "O" word and to never say, "I've got plenty of time..."

By the time the Ducks were playing the Minnesota Wild, it donned on us - wow, they might actually make it to the Finals! Thoughts of a book flashed through our heads. Staff photographer Mark Avery was added to our road coverage giving me a traveling mate to Minneapolis.

The Ducks made quick work of the Wild setting up 10 days of no hockey. Or so I thought. A stressful, complicated studio shoot involving the Stanley Cup and melting ice amply filled my time.

Hockey being a somewhat "lesser" sport, it doesn't have all the hoopla that the NBA or NFL does. In fact it wasn't until the Finals that the League stepped in and took charge of everything. I'm sure people had a lot of complaints but as the "home town paper" I felt like we were well taken care of. Huge props to the Ducks and the League for clearing a row of seats
Photo by Kevin Sullivan / Orange County Register

Photo by Kevin Sullivan / Orange County Register

Stanley Cup Finals Game 2: Ducks vs. New Jersey Devils at Continental Airlines Arena. Ducks' assastant captain Keith Carney looks down as he is interviewed during the 2nd and 3rd period.
for the overhead positions at the Pond. Seats where fans couldn't stand up and block your shot. It was a very classy move that was greatly appreciated (at least by me).

So now the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim are in the Stanley Cup Finals. Who would have guessed that? And near the Big Apple nonetheless. Good times.

At every turn I was anticipating resistance - from getting credentials to putting up remotes. Thankfully I was wrong. Things went pretty smoothly over all. The one constant I noticed was just how friendly all the photographers were in every city. I'm the king of stupid questions but there was usually a local staffer willing to answer them all. A big thank you goes out to Anita, Adam and Jessica at NHL Images as well as to Doug, Matt, Brian and Elsa at Getty.

I can sum up my Finals experience with four little words: it was a blast. From the Westin at Times Square to Scruffy Duffy's to an exhilarating Game 7 - it was all-amazing.

My one travel tip: catch an early morning Staten Island ferry with TSN's Dilip Vishwanat to watch sunrise over Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. It was the perfect ending to a long, exhausting fun-filled journey.


(Kevin Sullivan is a staff photographer with the Orange County Register. He is a graduate of the San Jose State photojournalism program and has been a volunteer at both of the Sports Shooter Workshop & Luaus.)


Related Links:
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