by Jas Faulkner, Nashville Correspondent
As we head into the final week of the regular season, roughly half of the NHL is scheduling family vacations and tee times while the other half is getting ready for the playoffs. April in pro hockey is bittersweet. Some players know this is possibly the last time they’ll wear their team’s laundry. Everyone knows that when training camp starts in late summer, they’ll come back to find new hopefuls standing alongside familiar brothers in arms. There will be a handful gone missing by dint of deals, desire and age. Men who shared the locker room, the family stories, the good tired of a hard earned win and the ache of a loss that shouldn’t have happened will have departed for other teams or entirely out of the league.
In the meantime, there are the last-minute details to be addressed. For many teams this includes the team photo. The picture is a distillation in pixels and print of a season of hard work. It shows the result of the careful planning by the GM and the coaching staff in putting together that season’s roster. It is a chance for fans to put a face the names of the people who work behind the scenes to make it all happen. There is the subtle body language among the players that indicates pride and connection with each other. There are also the returning prodigals, suited out and standing with the team, each one a tantalsing promise of excellence on the ice once they get well.
Aside from the people on the risers and chairs were camera operators from the local broadcast news outlets the team photographer, John Russell and his assistants. In the visiting penalty box, Predators Community Relations Coordinator Gina Maduri waited with winner of the team experience auctions offered at the 2011 GnashVegas Gala.
The woman who was to have her picture taken with the team looked a bit doubtful as my well-worn Nikes touched the ice.*
“You know”, she said, “I’m going to need someone to walk me out there.”
“God knows you don’t want me to walk you out there, ” I said, “We would end up in a pile at center ice.”
God knows she didn’t. When asked which Predator she would most like to walk her to her seat, she said any of them would be fine.**
The players were all in place and a few waved her over for her picture. She repeated her request and NSH GM David Poile rose from his seat to offer assistance. However, he was beaten to the punch by team captain, Shea Weber, who offered his arm and accompanied her to her place of honour.
At that point, Russell, who was perched on a ladder paused and said, “Hands on knees in front, gentlemen!”
“Does it matter whose knee?” quipped CEO Jeff Cogen.
The first set of pictures were snapped and the Shea provided the auction winner a courtly stroll back to the relative safety of the penalty box before settling back in for the offical team photo.
The whole process took a little over fifteen minutes.
I figured it would take much longer. According to Russell, team picture time actually goes pretty quickly. “We get ‘em up there, snap and it’s done. It doesn’t take long at all.”
So, did I get my own team photo? You’d better believe it. This Nashville native loves her Predators. But I’m not going to publish it just yet. You’ll have to wait until Friday when John Russell’s portrait of the team will be available in poster form to everyone who attends Friday’s game. For those of you who can’t make it, I’ll post my own in the next Greetings From Smashville Digest.
* It really wasn’t too bad. I walked around with my camera stuck to my face and didn’t fall once. I can’t say the same for an average stroll on dry land.
**I maintain that photographic evidence shows she got her wish!