What is your favorite hockey photo of all-time?
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: There are so many iconic hockey moments that have been captured by the game’s best photographers. We’ve seen Stanley Cup winners, amazing celebrations, and emotional scenes. We’ve also have been gifted the shot of Gary Bettman getting choked out by Gene Simmons of KISS.
What makes a great hockey photo? Passion, timing, lightning, and sometimes the people in the picture. Or sometimes just the setting of the shot.
Which brings us to my favorite hockey photo. There were many candidates. Daniel Briere’s Winter Classic penalty shot. SJ Sharkie about to surprise the Capitals. Gary Coleman meeting Mark Messier and his tiny towel.
I first saw this photo walking through the Air Canada Centre press box years ago. The Stanley Cup caught my attention and then I noticed the rest of the shot, and it’s very, very good.
This is Maple Leafs coach/GM Punch Imlach after the team won the Cup in 1963 — their second of three straight championships. The photo is the perfect encapsulation of a season ending with a title: time to sit back, relax with a glass of champagne and, of course, not have to worry about practice tomorrow.
James O’Brien, NHL writer:
My first instinct was to go with a Bobby Orr Stanley Cup-winning shot that was iconic enough to get its own statue. That seems kind of boring, though, right? Maybe?
So, instead, consider a piece of hockey history that was transformative — literally, in some ways. On the fateful night of Nov. 1, 1959, Jacques Plante was bloodied after a puck struck his face. Despite the protestations of coach Toe Blake, Plante refused to return to action unless he could wear a mask he often used in practice.
Plante is remembered as much for that innovation as for anything he did on the ice as a Hall of Fame goalie. Really, though, how can you shake an image like this?
You don’t get much more “hockey” than that, unless you sprinkle in wild hair, robust beards, and missing teeth.
Speaking of robust beards …
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Without a doubt, Lanny McDonald lifting the Stanley Cup in 1989. Aesthetically, this photo is iconic; it shows a grizzled captain with an epic ginger beard, experiencing Lord Stanley ecstasy. But the circumstances behind this moment add even more depth to the story.
McDonald was born and raised a couple hours outside of Calgary and was drafted 4th overall by the Maple Leafs in 1973. He spent the rest of that decade blossoming into one of the league’s top goal scorers for Toronto. After two trades, he ended up back in Alberta playing for the Flames. In 1982-83 he scored 66 goals – still a team record, and more than anyone that season aside from Wayne Gretzky. He became a team captain.
But as his career progressed, team success was harder to come by. He had never reached the Stanley Cup Final until 1986, when at age 33, he and the Flames lost to the Montreal Canadiens, and their star rookie Patrick Roy. The Habs won the Cup at the Saddledome.
Three seasons later, McDonald had a reduced role on a 117-point, Presidents’ Trophy-winning juggernaut. He only scored 11 goals that year, but his 11th in late March gave him 500 for his career. He wasn’t done.
The Flames advanced to the final, and once again they were matched up against Roy and the Canadiens. McDonald had been a healthy scratch for Games 3, 4 and 5, but with a 3-2 series lead, Calgary coach Terry Crisp put him back in the lineup for Game 6 at the Montreal Forum. It paid off, as the 36-year-old McDonald scored his only goal of that postseason – a glove-side snipe, no less – to give the Flames a 2-1 lead that they would never relinquish.
They held on to win 4-2, and are still the only visiting team to clinch the Cup in Montreal.
When McDonald announced his retirement that summer, he also revealed he had made up his mind prior to the start of the 1988-89 season that it would be his last.
The perfect way to conclude a Hall of Fame career, and the perfect image to sum it all up.
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