Day Two – Follow the Play, Not the Puck

2 01 2010

As the NHL wraps up the celebration on what’s sure to be the most watched game of the year, I have to be thankful that one thing didn’t show its face at the game. Not head-shots or diving plays, but bad camera work.

Toskala may not be the best goalie in the NHL, but the camera crew surrounding him is.

It’s not a problem in every city, but I find that majority of the men and women behind the cameras don’t have the greatest hockey sense. They always seem to be trailing he play, trying to catch up with the puck and not predicting the flow of play. All this does is make them lose the puck when they pass back to the blue line or when it’s cleared on the penalty kill.

The action on the blue line is just as important as the play in front of the net. The puck will inevitably end up at the defense, unless there’s a goal scored. Yet many cameramen choose to focus the play in the middle of the screen. This puts the crowd in the unused and wasted space, especially with te new widescreen format. It’s true that the camera should direct the viewer’s attention, but there has to be some trust that the viewer can follow the play, even if it’s not dead centre.

I’m not a Leaf fan. Quite the opposite, as I regularly make the four-hour drive down the 401 to Detroit to see my beloved Red Wings. But the sad fact is that Toronto has some of the best camera men in the league. Regardless of how many circles visiting teams skate around the Leafs, the Toronto cameramen are with the play so you don’t miss a beat. In Toronto, the net cam has an easier time following the play than the main camera in a city like Chicago, even with Vesa Toskala flipping around in front of the net.

I’m not sure how this could be fixed across the league. I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if the people behind the camera had no interest in the game of hockey. Work behind a camera is definitely not easy to come by, so if I was offered a job to shoot a game of Cricket, I would take it, regardless of my knowledge of the game.

Even though it would be wishful thinking, I think it would be great of the league to sit all these camera men, directors and producers down together at a big conference and get everyone on the same page. Have some seminars, some hands on classes and just general lessons on the game of hockey.

I wouldn’t hold my breath though. If it were that simple, Hamilton would have some of the best camera work in the NHL today.