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John White: First Castlegar Rebels game will be hard to top

I picked one heck of a first Castlegar Rebels game to cover last Thursday night.
Kyle Bergh scored the game-tying goal that sent the Rebels into overtime with 12.6 seconds left in the third period.

I picked one heck of a first Castlegar Rebels game to cover on Thursday night.

Joining reporter Chelsea Novak to shoot photos at the game, I set up shop along the glass in the corner with the newsroom’s new Canon EOS Rebel.

While waiting for the opening face-off, I did the math on when I last stood inside a chilly community arena to shoot hockey. It was 1996, when I was editor at the Edson Leader.

That was so long ago, that I had a camera that actually used film. I had three rolls of 36 with me and that was it. (Two black and white and one colour, as we just started doing our own colour separations back then.) And then — of course — I had to go in the darkroom to process my stuff. I can still smell the fixer on my hands…

Now I have a digital beast that can shoot full-auto sports mode in bursts and in low light and capture brilliant pics. Exhibit A: my shot that captured the moment the Rebels tied the game with 12.6 seconds left in regulation.

The new digital cameras not only empower you to take better photos, you also have a lot more leeway on volume. Instead of 108 frames over three rolls, I had nearly infinite space on my memory card. I shot 320 frames over the two games worth of action, and barely made a dent on the card. Add to that the ability to view and delete on the fly, and you have massive flexibility and range as a shooter.

My only challenge on the night was finding a non-smudged spot on the glass to shoot through. A season’s worth of angry hockey left the panes a trifle gummed up.

So many memories came flooding back: the smell of musty hockey gear mixed with Zamboni fumes… the sound of parents and or followers who get a little too personal in their loud musings toward the refs, their own players, or the opposition… the delicious home-cooked arena burgers and fries… the cold feet and legs from standing on frozen concrete for three hours… the occasional eye contact with players in the midst of chaos and intensity.

There’s nothing quite like shooting hockey games in that sense. There’s an intensity in the process, and you can’t help but get caught up in the energy, especially at ice level and standing right at the glass.

As for the game itself? Wow. Two evenly matched teams that played with speed, finesse, aggression and passion. Playoff hockey always ramps up the emotion. Quadruple overtime and the level of play never dropped.

There were controversial plays — a Castlegar goal that looked and sounded like it may have only hit pipe, a check to the head and a hit from behind, a missed too-many-men call — and incredible saves by each netminder.

The tying goal with a dozen seconds left? Hollywood.

The winner came on a power play after one of the previously mentioned controversies, and it was a delicate deflection on a point shot that left one team in shock and the other in a giant group hug.

What more could I ask for in a first game?