May 21 2010

Final Finals

After over 2 weeks of hockey in Mannheim, Germany, I finally arrived in Cologne today to hook up with the rest of the Images on Ice crew in advance of the semi-final and medal games set to be played over the weekend. The event has proved entertaining as always, no question. Some moment throughout the first 2 rounds of play, finished up with a huge quarter final match win for the German National team last night which knocked the Swiss out of the medal round.

I have certainly been able to make a fair share of interesting pictures and for some reason at this event, there has been a disproportionate amount of images made by other photographers of me. Funny, I know. Never the less, I though I would share a few. If anything, I always tried to keep it light around the rink. Enjoy!



Special thanks to Max who shot most of these. Thanks man!

PS – No mascots were injured in the making of these pictures!

May 5 2010

In the home stretch!

As I head out across the Atlantic ocean on a flight bound for Frankfurt, Germany, the sun is just barely beginning to rise somewhere to the east of us and at 36,000 feet it is simply a warm glow in the distance on the horizon. It is my 13th flight since Christmas and my 2nd transatlantic crossing within the past week after flying home from Belarus. As I look forward with excitement and anticipation towards the premiere event in International Ice Hockey, I can’t help but think how quickly the season has gone by, and what a busy season at that. Sure, there were some days that didn’t seem to be going by all that quickly, but it is unreal to look back and see how much ground I have covered over the past five months. This will be my 6th World Championship event of the year, which crossed the span of 10 time zones. This last stand is the Men’s World Championships. By the numbers, it takes place in 2 Cities, with sixteen teams, over twenty days, with numerous NHL and international hockey starts, and finally, 1 gold medal game. The main event. Not unlike the Olympics, this event is a big one, usually, the biggest in non-Olympic years.

I have been fortunate to see so much top level hockey this year, something some people would only dream of and it has been nothing short of amazing to say the least. From the nail biting gold medal overtime win by Team USA at the famous World Juniors tournament in Saskatchewan, to another nail biting gold medal overtime win, this time by Canada’s Men’s hockey team in Vancouver at the 2010 Olympic Games. Then on to see Japan’s upset of Canada’s Sledge Hockey at the Paralympics Games, followed by Chicago, where Canada’s U18 Women won gold. Again, finishing in overtime Then, most recently, the dominance of Team USA at the Men’s U18 tournament in Minsk, Belarus. At this point, I can only imagine that the final event of my season will continue to be nothing short of spectacular to cap off an absolutely stellar year of international hockey. Looking forward to it.

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Apr 15 2010

Here at last!

Well, I’m here. Finally arrived in Minsk, Belarus. A place I have never been before. My flight from Vienna to Minsk was the final leg of my journey, which took about twenty hours in total. I don’t remember much of the flight though, as it was the first bit of sleep I have had in the past twenty-four hours and I didn’t last much past the taxi down the runway before I was out, cold.

When we landed in Minsk and I finally came around, the scenery out the window looked similar to that of northern Alberta, or Ontario for that matter. I could have been landing in Fort McMurry all over again from what I could tell.

The sky was a light slate gray color with a few patches of sun streaming through. Our plane parked out on the tarmac, away from the actual airport, which look like a cross between a soviet military relic and some retro space station from an old science fiction movie. There were Antonov cargo planes all over the place and old, military green trucks buzzing about all around them. There were very few other passenger planes anywhere to be seen.

Our plane was greeted by a number of different people, some Austrian Airlines staff, a few airport officials and of course, a couple of stern looking gentlemen in military officers uniforms. Typically, an airport wouldn’t pose the best opportunity for any sort of humorous activities or comments at the best of times, but I very quickly had the impression that in this place, in the presence of these people, there was absolutely no margin for error. Not even a grin.

I boarded a small bus along with the other passengers from the flight and we drove towards the fairly desolate looking building. Once we arrived I made my way inside and right away noticed someone holding a sign. To my surprise, it actually had my name on it. It read “Matt Manor” in big black letters. A comforting feeling of relief washed over me, as I knew I must be close to the end of a trip that seemed like it never would. I wasn’t sure if it had to do with the fact that there, in front of me was a sign with English letters on it, or if it was because there was actually someone there to meet me. Never the less, I was glad to be greeted.

After meeting the smiling face, which was waiting for me, I was even more relieved when I found that Sergij was able to speak with me in perfect English. (Happened to be linguistics major at the university) Unfortunately, my Belarusian isn’t very extensive, yet, but what better place to start working on it? We made our way to the visa office and picked up my papers without out issue, passed through passport control, picked up my bags and made our way right outside to our waiting car. I was beginning to catch my second wind, or third, or fourth at this point, and I was excited again at the prospect of what lay ahead.

We made our way from the airport, along a highway which could have been the anywhere along the 401, lined with evergreen trees and over-passes, which gave me a weird sense of comfort. After what seemed like a short ride, eventually we ended up heading down the main street in Minsk, which runs about 14 kilometers through the entire city. As we drove through the city, I found many of the old buildings to be quite beautiful and majestic looking with stone and brick facades. They also had many distinct soviet features to them as well, which made them all the more interesting. There were lots of people out enjoying the warm, late afternoon, spring weather and walking the wide, expansive sidewalks. Finally, we arrived at the hotel Yubileiny, which is to be my home for the next 11 days and is conveniently located directly across the street from the rink.

I checked in, dropped off my bags and made my the short walk over to the rink.

From here, it all begins, on with the games!


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Apr 14 2010

Bound for Belarus!

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Feb 28 2010

Day 20 – The big dance

Today is the day. It is the day we have all been working towards. The collective of personnel providing a myriad of services during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. It is an early start time today, relatively speaking, with puck drop @ 12:15 pacific time,… and it is going to be nuts.

It was raining this morning and Steve and I made our ritualistic trip in from our airport hotel via taxi. We had the driver drop us in our usual spot on the corner of Abbott St. and some other street where the Tinsel Town Mall is located. We made our way into the Starbucks on the corner as we have every day for the past twenty or so. A tall, half sweet, non-fat, no whip mocha, a tall non-fat, double shot latte with a slice of banana loaf.

With our white cups in hand we made the short walk over to gate 9 where the media entry is located and found that the line-up had already been forming. With the rain pelting down on us, we all queued up for our security screening procedures, which has become strictly mandatory for everyone entering the venue today. Word is that the PM will be in the house for the big game, along with a potential appearance by none other than Barack Obama.

In the line up, we chat with many of the other photographers who have been covering the event, all of which have become familiar faces. In the intense few weeks of work, some new, sort of professional relationships have developed and it has been interesting to get to know many of the experts working in the field of photography today. Some, I already knew or have met, some I knew of but had never met, and some I had no idea who they were, but came to know and respect them just the same.

Today we will all be working to capture the decisive moment and the excitement around this special game. Many of the photographers here will be competing against one another for ‘the’ pictures of the day, but even though there is a slight tension of nerves in the air, the mood is light and everyone seems to be in great spirits despite the cold rain.

I am looking forward to a great hockey game, perhaps one of the best ever played to date and regardless of who wins, I have no doubt it will be one to remember.

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Feb 26 2010

Day 18 – Catching up!

Boy, the days are flying by and I haven’t posted anything. Where do the hours go? I know I have already talked about it, but the days where we had 3 games were just deadly! At this point, how about a recap?

Day 11 – Today was sort of an off day where I was scheduled to shoot close up pictures of the awards being given to the 22 honoured members of the Triple Gold Club, followed by a team photo for the Slovaks’. Not really a bad day at all and a good chance to catch up on reviewing and archiving some of the material we already shot.

Day 12 – Another 3 game outing today featuring NOR v SUI, SVK v LAT and then GER v BLR on the men’s side. Start time, 8am, finish time, 1 am. Many, many pictures.

Day 13 – Today, was a great day of hockey, 3 games, featuring some great international rivalries. First it was RUS v CZE, followed by CAN v USA, capped off with FIN v SWE on the men’s side. This was the day in which Canada dropped their final preliminary game to the USA, forcing them to play in a quarterfinal game.

Day 14 – With the men’s events taking a day off, it was a full day with 2 semifinal games in the women’s event, along with the placement games and finishing off the day with the Triple Gold Club celebrations. This was a real amazing treat as I was able to shoot some exclusive pictures of 22 hockey players who had captured the top 3 prizes in hockey over the course of their career. I was also privileged enough to get my own photo with the Stanley Cup, the World Championship trophy and a gold medal from the Nagano Olympic games.

Day 15 – This was the day in which Canada’s men’s team played Germany in a quarterfinal match up after suffering a 5-3 loss to the US in the preliminary rounds. The place (CHP) was decked out in red and white as far as the eye could see and it was loud. A do or die game and the Germans would have enjoyed nothing less then spoiling for the home team. The late game was somewhat anticlimactic between SVK and Norway. Although, the game itself was quite good, finishing in a respectable 4-3 score.

Day 16 – The Canada win against Germany setup arguably the game of all time, or at least one in the making for the past 2 years between Canada and Russia. But first, the US had to take on Switzerland to earn a berth in the semifinals, which they did, and then Canada went on to spank Russia, stunning the star-studded line up along with everyone else in the hockey world by a score of 7-3. Finally, Slovakia upset Sweden and sending them home. It was a long day, full of surprises, including some great pictures.

Day 17 – Women’s finals. Today was a classic scene in women’s hockey where Canada and the US would be playing off for the goal medal, and Finland would battle Sweden for the Bronze medal. It was an intense day, the first game saw Finland beat Sweden 3-2 in a seesaw battle and then Team Canada went on to win the gold medal while 18,000 crazed fans blew the roof off the CHP. Unfortunately, given some strict and strange (in my opinion) around ice access for the post game ceremonies, I stayed in my elevated position just below the TV cameras and captured the exciting finish while my colleague and fellow crew member, Jeff Vinnick, waited in the Zamboni tunnel for the last 10 minutes of the period and then made his way out onto the ice after the winning celebrations was over. Regardless, we made some great pictures and it was amazing just to be here to watch it. I especially enjoyed when the US team was receiving their silver medals and the entire building began to chant in true Canadian style USA, USA, USA. One word, respect.

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Feb 20 2010

Day 10 – Best day of hockey,… so far anyways.

What a day! It started when I woke sometime around 3:30am (local time) with one of ‘the’ worst headaches I have had in a while. I dropped a couple Advil liquid gels and tried to get back to sleep. Finally, after not very much luck, I decided to get up, get showered and get ready for another long day of shooting pictures at the rink.

Steve and I left the hotel around 8:15am and made it to the rink for 9. After clearing security, we set up in the office and then I made my way up to the catwalk, along with a dozen or so other photographers who we powering up and double checking the remote, overhead cameras we have setup. On any other normal day, this is no big deal, but on a day where my head was throbbing, looking over the guard rail, though the viewfinder was not the most fun thing I have ever done. These cameras are the ones that make the pictures where you seem to be right over top of the net.

After that was taken care of and still feeling awful, I made a run to the local Startbucks, just up the street from CHP, for some coffee and a bit of breakfast, hoping that might help me along. It did.

Our first game of the day had USA v NOR where the US team had a decisive win 6-1, despite Norway playing a hard-nosed game against the Americans.

Next, was the daily feature game, where Canada took on Switzerland. Interestingly enough, it was exactly 4 years ago to the day, where Switzerland beat Canada in the 2006 games in Torino, which saw Canada finish in 7th place overall. This time the game was on home ice in front of 18,000+ crazed Canada fans who where pumped just to see the home team come onto the ice for the pre-game skate I made my way down and through the crowd, hunting for some interesting pictures and happened upon a few. Although the Canadian team seemed more confident in the beginning of the game, Switzerland continued to battle and pushed the game to overtime and then to a shootout. Finally, in the 3 round of shooters, Martin Brodeur made a huge save, followed by Sidney Crosby scoring to end the game and give Canada the win. Of course, by this point, my nerves were pretty well shot and the building, which was a sea of red, went nuts!

With little time to spare between the afternoon game and the evening game, I grabbed a quick bite of rink food before heading back to my position at centre ice, on the first deck, just below the TV cameras for the late game featuring Russia and Slovakia. Typically, I shoot some pictures of the players warming up, or as I mentioned above, I’ll try and make some nice fan pictures, but for this particular game, I decided to just watch for a bit and see what I could see,… and I was impressed. Russia has really become a crowd pleaser and especially with the lineup they have here, the building was packed again with many of the spectators wearing red, white and blue. But they weren’t cheering for Montreal, or USA, they were cheering for Vouching, Kovalchuk and Malkin. Loyal, loyal fans, just like the Canadian ones who had just left. As the warm-up time came to an end, and pretty wall all the players had left the ice, Alexander Ovechkin stood in front of the net just firing pucks at the empty goal. Looking around after each shot and taking in the atmosphere he very much seemed to be enjoying every moment. Not tense at all. As I watched, I saw him spot a small kid along the glass in one of the corners, where the fans were standing 6 deep and high flying number 8 skated over towards the corner and lifted a practice puck with the flick of his wrist into the net safety screen, just above the glass. The puck sat at the bottom of the mesh for a moment before dropping almost right into the kid’s hands. Suddenly, the building went nuts! Ovechkin then skated over towards the other corner, scooping up another puck from the crease on his way by and then doing the same as before. Reaction? The building erupted again, with cheers and whistles. Finally, as the clock ticket away, Alex headed towards the bench area and lifted one more puck over the glass to a kid near the blue line. He hopped the boards and made his way down the tunnel, high-fiving everyone along the along the way. In a game to win the fans, Ovechkin 1, everybody else, zero.



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Feb 20 2010

Day 9 – The sunny winter games!

Today was a bit lighter than usual, with only 2 games on my schedule. First up was CAN v SWE followed by SUI v SVK, both taking place at the UBC Thunderbird arena.

Fortunately, a good friend and colleague of mine, Jeff Vinnick, who happens to live fairly close to my hotel, was also covering the first game featuring Canada so I was able to hitch a ride. My phone rang at about 10 minutes to noon and Jeff was down stairs. “On my way!” I said and down I went. When I stepped out of the hotel lobby, the warm sun on my face and the fresh smell of spring stopped me dead in my tracks. “I guess it’s a fine day for the summer games eh?” I said with a grin. “Too bad we are going to be in the rink all day!”

The past few days have been unseasonably warm here in Vancouver which has certainly caused a few issues with some of the alpine events, but I have to say, there is something about going to the rink with the sunroof open and no jacket on that is just beautiful.

The two games really didn’t offer anything out of the ordinary and it was just a good day all around. Haven’t had one of those in a while and it was good to relax, focus and just shoot some pictures. I was a great way to resent and prepare for the days and games to come.



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Feb 17 2010

Day 8 – 15 hours, 3 hockey games and many, many pictures!

This was a tough one,… toughest one yet actually. Steve and I got to the rink at 9am to start prep for our first game of the day, which was at noon. We setup the office, I marked my position and set a remote camera. Bang! Time for warm up to start and we are off to the races.

First up was USA-SUI where the Swiss played a solid game, but the US talent and size took over in the long run giving the US team the win. Then it was the ‘home opener’ of sorts, CAN-NOR, where it took Canada sometime to gel as a team and Norway played a strong game, not backing down from the gold medal favourite. In the end, Canada, of course took the win. Then, the late show, starting at 9pm local time, had RUS-LAT. The Russian star-studded line up started quick at continued to roll over Latvia.

We finished up around 1100pm, packed up and headed home for a nice meal of McDonalds drive through on our way back to the hotel. I should mention that I was able to fit a quick trip to the MPC (Main Press Centre) in between games 2 and 3 and I was able to grab a bagel for Steve and I then.

More to come tomorrow.

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Feb 16 2010

Day 7 – Men’s player portraits and team photos

Well, today was a long one, (which one hasn’t been) and it was quite busy,… But I took time to enjoy some of the lighter things throughout the day, like;

When I was shooting pictures of pretty well the top 40 hockey players in the world in the span of 30 minutes when team Russia and team Canada went back to back for their player portraits. Players like Ovechkin, Malkin, Semin, Datsyuk, Nabokov, Fedorov, Gonchar, Afinogenov and Kovalchuck, follow by Iginla, Heatley, Thornton, Pronger, Staal, Perry, Niedermayer, Brodeur, Nash and Crosby. All filing in and staring right down the barrel of my lens for their headshot. Ok, not really a huge deal, but something of a small pleasure to welcome them into the studio area, exchange some pleasantries and wish them a good afternoon. Surprisingly, all of them were quite happy to chat for a brief moment, and many of them comment on how quick and painless the whole process was,… A little feather in my cap!

During that time, we also had Chris Pronger come in for his portrait and completely submerge his head in water to make sure his hair and face were completely wet as to look ‘game ready’ as he put it.

But certainly, one of the most interesting moments was when we had the entire US team and staff on the ice for their team picture, setup in close to record time, only to have some of the staff in the front row muttering some ‘words of encouragement’ in favour of me moving things along. As I took my eye away from the view finder after a handful of solid frames, I smiled and said, “That’s it guys, all done! Thanks!”

Capping off the day in which Steve and I skipped breakfast in favour of making it into the rink early, and then never had the chance at lunch or supper, we were able to gain access to the IIHF VIP lounge for a cocktail and some munchies. And now, time for bed. First 3 men’s games tomorrow,… looks like a 9am-1am shift tomorrow,… Ouch!

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