London Ont. photographer documenting historic NHL playoffs inside bubble
LONDON, ONT. -- For the nearly three months, London Ont. photographer Dave Sandford will be inside the NHL's playoff bubble in Edmonton.
As one of four photographers working for the NHL, he's documenting this unique post-season rink side.
In the early stages there is three games per day at Rogers Place in Edmonton, and Sandford is tasked with photographing all of the action.
"It's exhausting that's for sure," says Sandford.
"It's a lot of hockey and a lot of time behind the scenes so very long days. Sunday I worked a 16 hour day because we are at the arena a few hours before the first game, and a couple hours after the third. The only other time I'd do this many games in a day is the Olympics."
Sandford isn't complaining though. He recently expressed that view in a conversation with another veteran cameraman the other day.
"How many millions of people would kill to trade places with us right now?" says Sandford.
"It put it in perspective. There is a lot of hockey fans watching at home, and I'm one of the rare people in the building, and it's even more rare to have a front row seat to it all."
The Londoner has covered two Olympics, and taken his camera to nearly every major sport.
He's never been inside a bubble like this, but does have a similar experience having worked on expedition ships in the past in the polar region.
"We we aren't going port to port but this is much nicer because I have a lot more room here than I do on a ship."
The bubble in Edmonton consists of three hotels and the arena which are set up side by side.
"The NHL has done so much for us. We have restaurants, food trucks, golf simulators, basketball nets, corn hole, and outdoor dining.
For people who have down time, which I will have as the playoffs go on, there are ways to keep occupied. It's like a mini Olympic village in a way with fences up, and everyone contained to one area."
It's an historic time in the world of sport, and Sandford is one of the few tasked with documenting this unusual season. He says he's trying to tackle the games from a photojournalist point of view.
"Working for NHL I’m often just documenting the game and the things that immediately surround the game. We're playing in a pandemic and things are extremely different. I'm trying to document as much as possible to show people & the world all the things that are different behind the scenes here. It's a piece of history and nothing like this has ever been done or accomplished. So trying to document as much as possible along the way."
And while the Stanley Cup won't be hoisted until early October, Sanford has already thought about what his photos will look like with no fans in the background.
"Photos you typically get where players are interacting with fans along the glass as they carry the cup around, it's going to be strange and surreal. I've described it as being in the Twilight Zone in some ways."
Sandford says now that the exhibition games are finished and the games now count, it's a different vibe inside Rogers Place.
"It almost feels living in a video game with the lights and sound different things like that. For not having a crowd there it's as good as you can possibly have it.
There is a buzz that only comes with playoff time, and even though the building is essentially empty, that buzz is still there for everybody."
After speaking with CTV News early Monday morning, he was off to the rink for another three contests beginning with Calgary and Winnipeg at 12:30 p.m., and finishing with Chicago and Edmonton at 8:30 p.m.
"They are long tiring days, but love my job and wouldn't want to be anywhere else right now."