On February 8, 2018 I had the opportunity to photograph my first professional hockey game, an American Hockey League (AHL) match-up between the Syracuse Crunch and the Hartford Wolf Pack at the War Memorial Arena at The Oncenter in Syracuse, NY. Syracuse earned a point after climbing back from a two-goal deficit to force overtime before getting bested by Hartford in a shootout, the final being 4-3. Thanks to the Crunch public and media relations staff I was able to work opposite the team photographer on Friday evening, shooting from the corners through cutouts in the glass. I only started photographing hockey late this past year, primarily high school games in the town of Skaneateles, NY where I currently live. In those cases, I'm shooting through the glass (where I try to find a clean spot) with the pace being much slower than what I experienced during the AHL game.
My game-plan (other than protecting my gear and my person) was to take advantage of the better light and clarity, shooting a bit less than wide open in order to improve my overall focus. I love my Canon 6D and it is great in low light, but with 4.5 fps continuous shooting and my choice of shooting RAW I couldn't fire away without the buffer filling quickly; I really hope Santa or the Photography Fairy brings me a Canon 7D Mark II this year: With more AF-points and 10 fps I would improve my odds of getting better shots. As it was, I had my 6D paired with a first generation Canon 70-200L 2.8 IS lens. Focus was set to AI-Servo, mode was AV, went with spot metering, increased exposure compensation by + 1/3, and went with a custom white balance of 4000K. ISO was set to 3200 and went with an aperture from 3.2 to 4.0; this game me enough shutter speed to stop the action in most circumstances.
Overall I'm pretty happy how things turned out, doing my best to anticipate the action and let that guide my shooting. I managed not to get hit by the puck, a stick or anything else and protected my "up-armored" gear thanks to some suggestions from Toronto Star hockey photographer Steve Russell and a few other pros.
Not sure when I'll have the opportunity to do something like this again, but it was a great learning experience and I hope you enjoy the results.