We had a truly Canadian evening last night. It was snowing quite hard in the early evening, starting around 6:30 or so, and Spouse and I had earlier determined that we would be attending the hockey game between the St. George Dukes (a local team in the Southern Ontario Junior Hockey League) and the defending league champion Thamesford Trojans.
Game time was 7:30; when we rushed out the door shortly after 7, the snow was really pelting down in great thick puffy flakes. We brushed off the car and clambered in, trying to shake off the chill during the drive over to the South Dumfries Community Centre for the big game. Admission was $5; we arrived in time to hear the singing of the national anthem (not sure who the young girl was that did the honours, but she acquitted herself admirably given the suspect p.a. equipment and her understandable nervousness). The game got under way and quickly turned into a spirited contest.
The Dukes, I am unhappy to report, did not seem equal to the task in terms of carrying the play throughout much of the first two periods. Thamesford clearly had the better of the play but did not finish off on its chances; by contrast, St. George scored goals on each and every one of the few chances they had and somehow managed to come away with a 3-1 lead going in to the third period before a vocal crowd of perhaps some fifty or sixty onlookers.
At the beginning of the third, Justin Harburn of the Trojans took matters in to his own hands. He scored three consecutive goals in under two minutes. Suddenly, there were 17 minutes left in the game and St. George was on the wrong end of a 4-3 score. A questionable interference call produced a power play on which the Dukes counted the tying marker. The teams traded chances thoughout the balance of the third, and Harburn – he of the lightning fast hat trick – had at least two more golden opportunities to salt away the victory for Thamesford, but regulation time expired with the clubs knotted at fours. A five minute overtime period of four on four hockey was entertaining, and included another questionable penalty call, this one against the Dukes. In the end, despite some end to end action and hard-hitting play, the overtime solved nothing.
On to the shootout, which Thamesford won in the fourth round to take a well-deserved road victory in to the locker room.
I took my camera and both lenses with me, as well as the monopod that Doug and T. thoughtfully got me for Christmas. I tried to take photographs for much of the game from our seats near centre ice. It gave me a newfound appreciation for the degree of difficulty involved in getting the shot at the critical moments in the game – especially when using long lenses, you kind of have to watch the play with one eye while (with the other) sighting through the viewfinder a target that you think might be important to the play as it develops. Your shutter finger must be poised and at the ready, and you have to constantly be monitoring the light metering, which I found to be quite variable depending upon the position of the play on the ice. You have to do all that while simultaneously trying to watch out for an errant puck being shot into the stands so you don’t get brained while you’re zooming in on two jokers scrapping in the corner.
Most of my results were not very spectacular, though I suppose I didn’t do too badly for a first effort. I did find that the pictures improved when I left my seat and shot from a lower angle, through the rink glass where necessary; this had the effect of putting the viewer more immediately in the action, as if on the ice with the players, and noticeably improved the pictures I got.
There isn’t much light available in a little community rink like that, and it was a struggle to make a sharp exposure. I was pleased with myself for remembering to open up the aperture in addition to bumping up the ISO settings. I tried to get too many images with the 400mm lens at too slow a shutter speed; I know that there is a general rule of thumb about not setting the shutter slower than the lens length, but I needed to break that rule to get any kind of exposure at all. Unfortunately, even with the monopod it is impossible to get any kind of an image at shutter speeds like 1/60 and 1/80.
I switched back to my shorter lens for the shootout. The picture at the top of this post is the game winning save by Trojans goaltender Chris Walker on Dukes forward Reid Morrison. I don’t think Walter Ioos has anything to fear from me just yet, but at least I got the shot. I will be back, and I will try again. Next time out, I resolve to try and get a few reaction shots from the players and coaches on the benches.