Saturday, June 30, 2007

It's hard to type with little bunny feet....Ode to Boris...

One of the great advantages of being a fan of development leagues is you get to see players grow from raw talent into launching their careers in the NHL. Last September Patrick Kissane and I attended the Red Wings Rookie Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan. At TC besides having a glorious time, we learned much from the staff, other fans and parents of players that also were the bleacher rats in attendance. It was here I first spyed the player that will be the subject of a blog entry solely dedicated to him, Boris Valabik all 230 pounds 6'7" first round draft pick of him of him. The Chicago Wolves (and I mean this with love) "Excitable Boy". So let me brush my little bunny feet and adjust the long ears for a minute...

First the dry facts, Boris Valabik was born Valentines Day 1986 in Nitra, Slovakia he is a Slav national,not a Check as he quickly points out to those of us geographically impaired. Boris came to the Wolves directly from the Ontario Hockey Leagues perennial powerhouse Kitchner Rangers along with golaie prospect Dan Turple. When in Hamilton for the Calder Cup semifinals Patrick Kissane and I encountered several fans that were at the games to see Valabik. He is remembered warmly as a stand up player and a team member who was there for every charity event. This hasn't changed since moving to the AHL, Boris defends his teammates and is always there for every booster club charity fundraiser. A painter off the ice one of his paintings was sold at auction this season for Wolves Charities.But enough of this litany of perfection our Excitable Boy has his faults,mainly born of his temper. It could be his passion for the game, personality, or dedication to his teammates, he can and will be drawn into fights by agitators. Valibak eagerly takes on the role of the enforcer at 21, role typically played by a more seasoned player. His temper consistently brings him to the attention of the men if stripes making him less effective on the ice. In fact some photographers have been known to follow him on the ice for where #27 goes action and a great shot usually follows. This combined with a nagging ankle injury from December may have lead to the decision to "scratch" him during at times during the Wolves reticent playoff series.

Despite his "youthful enthusiasm" this kid has the real stuff in him. I expect we will be seeing Valibik only for part of the 07'season in Chicago. He will move up to the Atlanta Thrashers with the first injury for his shot at the big show. I can only hope that chance comes later not sooner, this hot tempered chick needs more time with Todd Nelson (Wolves defensive coach) before he can become the cock of the walk he dreams of being. But that is just this photogs opinion, the fact that I love to shoot this guy has nothing to do with it.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Feel the Love, II

Two dear friends are having a long day today. They both love a good dance on the ice so guys, this one is for you.....Feel the love!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

4/22/07 Brookbank-v-Sterling...

Last September a generous friend Holly, sold me her Fugi camera when she upgraded. However, when she handed it to me she said "if you want to get into it seriously you will quickly want to up grade." Obviously, I fell in love with digital photography and just in time for the AHL playoffs in April I upgraded to a Canon SLR. My partner and I still use the Fugi as it takes good photographs. The benefits of having two cameras and people shooting the same game makes for far better coverage. Most of the posts in this blog will be of our work not just mine, let's face it sometimes the other guy has the better angle and photo. One of the greatest advantages of the SLR is not just the picture quality but also the other technical "goodies" that go along with all those pixels. Today's blog is a series of photos where the 2-6 were taken over a period of 2-3 seconds on continuous fire.

The players in the photos are The Wolves Brett Sterling (LW) the AHL Rookie of the Year and a pure scoring machine. He is a little guy, 180 lbs and standing 5'8" in skates. What Sterls lacks in poundage he makes up for that in pure moxie. But his numbers combined with his size make him a target for every goon in the league. On April 22, 07' the opponent is Sheldon Brookbank (D), the enforcer of the Milwaukee Admirals. In a rare instance of vigilance the referee actually steps in to stop Brookbank from twisting Sterls head off like a screw cap.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Feel the love.....

Even a Polly Pure Heart like me knows and loves the role of the enforcer. Sam, a college friend once pointed out Larry Playfair's stats out to me at a Sabres game telling me " If he has more than 200 PIMs half way through the season he is either a goon or an enforcer, probably a goon" Hockey is a physical game. Powerful fit bodies hit one another and build emotion, the odd dance is the safety valve players count on to let off natural steam. Plus, lets face it, the fans love fights. The enforcer is a necessary part of every team if the Sabres hadn't had Rob Ray and Larry Playfair, Alex Mogilny would have been a red smear on the ice. Possibly the best example of surgical use of an enforcer that I can think of was at a Chicago Wolves Peoria Riverman game in 04/06. Kevin Doell, a 180lb scrappy Wolves player came off the bench and was boarded by the Peoria enforcer D.J. King. King simply smeared Doell's face over 3' of glass. On the next shift John Anderson the Wolves coach sent out Frankie Lessard who simply skated up to King and invited him to dance. After a short tango D.J. left the ice to meet with the nice team Doctor for stitches to his forehead. However, the boarding of Doell and other smaller players stopped that minute.

Now that's feeling the love, hockey love that is...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Netties, How I love deze guys....

Goalies, how would you like a job where every time you made a mistake a red light comes on and thousands of people stand up and cheer? It is no wonder these players have enormous egos and fall into deep slumps. One of my favorite ways to capture a goalies spirt is to get a close up of their eyes. Look deeply into them they are intense, like a hunting animal. Total focus on the moment and on the object of the hunt, in this case the puck and the players in hot pursuit.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"It's a good start and I believe in starts." Roddy Doyle

Can art and grace meet on the ice during a hockey game? I see it every time the guys or gals hit the ice, it takes the stamina and flexibility of anyone called to the bar to play the game. During the 80's I had the privilege of seeing Gretzky and Alex Mogilny on the ice together at a Sabers game. It was like watching the ballet, pure poetry on the ice. Most of the time the skating does not get to this level but art can and does happen nightly on the ice. This blog is dedicated to capture it. My writing partner Patrick Kissane uses many of my photographs. However we are both constantly frustrated by the inability to use all of the images we would like to. This blog will endeavor to publish images from both of us.