NHL Photographer Dave Sandford: A look behind the Lens By @ChicksDigHockey - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

The Latest

Post Top Ad

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

NHL Photographer Dave Sandford: A look behind the Lens By @ChicksDigHockey

When you watch a hockey game and someone scores an unbelievable goal, then the whole team embraces in celebration, who freezes that moment in time? The iconic moments in sports are captured through the talent and skills of those who specialize in action photography. Sports photographers understand the sport they are shooting and train their eye to detect the nuances of the game that signal that a big play is about to happen. They have a keen sense of intuition that guides them to depress the shutter button at the split second the puck crosses the goal line because a split second after is too late. One man who possesses all that talent and is renowned as a premier sports photographer is Dave Sandford. (@Dave_Sandford)

Sandford grew up in London, Ontario doing what good Canadian boys do. He played hockey and dreamed of someday being in the NHL. As a teen he played defense but when he had his first knee surgery at age 14, it became clear that a professional hockey career just wasn’t in the cards. He credits his grandfather, who always came to his hockey games to take pictures, with his early interest in photography. Soon, Dave was not just taking pictures but capturing moments, preserving the very emotions of some of the sport's most pivotal and memorable events.

I was recently able to talk with Dave about his meteoric career and how he got started with the NHL:

“I started interning at the HHOF as a 2nd year university student and held that internship for 3 years. The following fall, the photographer they had on staff stepped down and they offered me the full time position. I took it, and it was only about 6 months into shooting for the HHOF that the NHL called me and said they'd noticed me and wanted to fly up to talk with me about becoming a shooter for them.”
The rest, as they say, is history.

Dave’s iconic hockey images now line the walls of the Hockey Hall of Fame. He has shot every Stanley Cup Final since the 1998 cup; 15 to date (minus the ’05 lockout when no cup was awarded).  Sandford has shot 17 NHL Drafts and 16 NHL Awards Ceremonies; he started doing those as a university intern. To date, he has shot every outdoor game the NHL has held with the exception of the recent Dodger Stadium game.  All that would be an impressive career for any sports photographer but Sandford’s resume is as long as your arm. In addition to 17 years of NHL experience, he has shot for the NBA, IIHF, Olympics, NFL,MLB, Wakeboarding, FIFA (soccer), WTA (tennis), PGA and numerous International Skating Competitions. His Wakeboarding photos have become so in-demand that he travels to Florida several times a year to shoot that sport’s young stars like Dallas Friday and Erik Ruck. When he has time, he takes breathtaking nature photographs. (I’m partial to his sunsets)

PI: As an award winning photographer yourself, I was wondering who you credit with influencing your early career?

Sandford taking a shot thru the photo hole in Vancouver
Sandford: As far as a professional influence, growing up Steve Babineau was a name I always looked up to. Now a friend and colleague, Steve has shot so much hockey over the years that his name has become synonymous with the game. His son Brian, a great friend of mine, is another great photographer. David Klutho of Sports Illustrated fame (is someone) I've considered him one of the greatest sports photographers I've ever seen. Always inspiring.
Craig Melvin, another amazing shooter who I was lucky enough to work with in the formative years of my NHL career had a huge influence on me. Craig was a great mentor to me and was always calm under pressure. He taught me to relax in big situations, after all it's just photos of a hockey game, we're not saving the world here. Craig taught me a lot about the business of shooting sports that you treat people around you the same way you want to be treated. Craig has always enjoyed his job, stayed loose when doing it. He just had this calming influence on me. He also taught me so many little tricks of the trade. I have to say in my professional career he taught me more than anyone. I may have learned more about photography in my first year with Craig than I did in my 4 years of school. He taught me practical applications that I still use to this very day. Some other great influences on my career Denis Brodeur, Lou Capozzola and Paul Bereswill.”

PI: Several of your images hang in the HHOF, if they told you tomorrow they could only keep one which one would it be and why?

Sandford:Wow that's a tough one to answer. Right now I'd have to say my image of Wayne Gretzky hanging up his skates in the Rangers locker room after his final game in the NHL. Gretzky was my boyhood idol. I was fortunate enough to see Gretzky play over 100 times before I was lucky enough to photograph him in the final 5 years of his playing career. I think I got to shoot him playing about 35-40 times playing for the Kings, Blues, and Rangers, including the last 5 games of his career. It was a farewell tour I'll never forget. I remember tears rolling out of the corner's of my eyes as I shot him skating around MSG waving good bye, and again as he hung’em up for that last time.”

PI: I can’t even fathom what it’s like to be on the ice to see the Cup raised 15 times. Is there a moment that stands out to you? 

Sandford: “I don't know if i can narrow it down to a single most memorable moment. I'll never forget the feeling I had in my first Stanley Cup as it was carried out on the ice to be presented to Yzerman in '98. I was literally shaking.”

PI: You’ve spent a lot of time with the Stanley cup…..any stories?

Sandford: "No comment"

PI: With the exception of the game played at Dodger Stadium, You’ve been a part of every NHL outdoor game. Do you enjoy shooting outdoors in the frigid cold?
A game of shinny with former NHL'er Kris King on Winter Classic Ice

Sandford: “I wouldn't miss it for anything! I absolutely love covering the outdoor games. Next to covering the Stanley Cup Final, these outdoor games are my favorite events to be a part of. I'm very fortunate to be so intimately involved with the outdoor games and as you say everyone to date. That streak is coming to an unfortunate end this week though as the Ducks and Kings will be taking the ice,  I will be in New York covering the Rangers and Devils. I'll be covering both Yankee Stadium games and then end of Feb heading out west to shoot the Canucks and Sens in the Heritage Classic, which will cause me to miss the Pens and Hawks game at Soldier Field. There's just something really special about doing the outdoor games, you never know what you’re going to get, bright sun, mild temps, freezing temps, rain, snow or a blizzard. The atmosphere surrounding these outdoor games is like no other. There's electricity in the air that I usually only really feel at playoff time. You just don't get that electricity at other regular season games, something about playing in mother-nature’s elements steps up the level of excitement.”

PI: Is there an outdoor game or a moment from a game that stands out for you?

Sandford: “As for a particular game, the first game in Edmonton was pretty special simply because it was the first.  I grew up an Oilers fan and was also on Dan Craig's ice crew for that event, acting as crew/photographer.
Dave's iconic shot of Crosby scoring in the 1st Winter Classic

“Hands down for a single moment it's Sid's (Sidney Crosby) winning shootout goal at the first Winter Classic in Buffalo. I don't think anything can top the game that was played in Buffalo between the Sabres and Penguins, the amount of snow that fell was insane.  It added so much to the atmosphere, the game and the drama as it unfolded from regulation, to overtime and finally the shootout. It also gave me what I think is perhaps my second most iconic frame I've taken in hockey. Sid scored that game winner and circled right toward me, crouching down and pumping both fists in celebration. That photo just summed it all up.”

PI: Speaking of Sidney Crosby, he wrote a beautiful testimonial about you which you feature on your site,  davesandfordphotos.com 

Sandford: “I've been very lucky to have a front row seat for a lot of Sid's career, from the time he was 15 years old in fact. I've seen a lot of amazing moments from Sid first hand.” 

PI: When you look back over your career, what are you grateful for?

Sandford: “Well, from a support point of view, I'd have to say my parents for sure. Both of them have been super supportive of my photography and my career choice from day one. They have always taught me to never give up and always do my very best. As long as i always continue to do my best the rest of the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place. My grandfather was always a solid influence as he was a great hobby photographer, loved the outdoors and always came to my hockey games to take photos of me.”

PI: The pieces seem to have fallen into place indeed, Dave. I want to thank you for the time you took from your busy schedule for this piece. Personally, I’d like to thank you for the kind support and friendship you’ve given to me. Both mean so much.



  1. Great interview. Just think about how many moments that our kids and our kids' kids will be able to "experience" because of his works. I can't imagine how indifferent I would feel about someone like Bobby Orr if not for that ONE photograph of him flying through the air.

  2. I can't even imagine being there for all of those moments. Seeing so many different men reach the pinnacle of my favorite sport etc...Amazing article Liz

  3. Wedding photography is an exciting field with many photographic hobbyists looking to make some extra money on the side providing cheap wedding photography.see my site


Post Top Ad