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Mark Blinch's Top Pic(k)s Of The Season

by Mark Blinch MapleLeafs /

Maple Leafs photographer Mark Blinch checks in with 20 of his favourite photos of the year, provides insights on capturing all the action and reflects on the most memorable moments of the season.

Auston Matthews Opening Night OT Goal Celebration: I knew this picture would end up being one of my favourite on the year as soon as I saw it. Just like the players, coaches, staff, management, and the fanbase, photographers have a heightened sense of urgency on opening night. I wanted to start the season off right. Whenever something like this happens in front of me, I usually focus on the action and resist checking my LCD screen on the back of the camera. He went by fast, so I was happy to confirm it was captured when I scrolled back through the images.


Marner Stretching: Mitch Marner does the exact same thing every warm up. He always stretches over the face off circle. I have shot his routine a million times at ice level, but I thought it would look really clean from overhead.


Frederik Andersen Netcam: This picture was made using a camera mounted inside a netcam housing made of polycarbonate. The camera is fired using a remote radio. In this picture we turned the stadium strobes (flashes) off at the opposite end of the ice in order to create a dark background. 

Patrick Marleau Opening Night Introductions: Opening night for new players must be exciting. I like this quiet moment of Marleau being introduced, as the spotlight shines down on him. As the team photographer, there are certain perks, one is being able to go on the ice on nights like this. Shooting the player introductions on opening nights is always something I look forward to and get excited to photograph.


Zach Hyman Goal Netcam: The netcam angle always provides a unique view. A camera is housed in a see through a polycarbonate base and fired using a remote radio. When a play happens in front of the net, you fire the camera using the radio, and hope the picture turns out when you retrieve the memory card between periods.

John Tavares Overhead: The overhead camera view is also fired using remote radios. When the players are around the net, I fire it, and hope it turns out. In this case, stadium strobes were used to create a shadow effect. We purposely only turn the strobes on one side of the ice to cast the shadow. It's think it gives it a bit of an old time look. If you look at old hockey pictures, you will notice photographers had to use strobes and flashes to light their pictures. Before digital cameras, arenas were darker, and film wasn't as good as digital in low light situations.


John Tavares Goal: This picture is from Tavares' first game back in Toronto after his return to Long Island. After Leafs fans gave him a standing ovation when he was introduced for the starting lineup, Tavares is seen here celebrating after scoring the opening goal. I find hockey celebration pictures usually work best from one angle. I am glad it went to my corner that night, to capture the emotion of this goal.

Mitch Marner Dasher Cam: This picture was made with a camera mounted in a small window at the bottom of the boards, fired with a remote radio. Like the netcam, when you see something happening in front of the net, you hit the button. I love the intensity of Marner crashing the net, and the look on the goalie's face. 


Matthews/McDavid Face Off: This picture was the result of planning and a little bit of luck. A lot of things had to go right for this to happen. This camera was mounted in the catwalks and fired using radio remotes. Since I dont have 4 spare cameras, I had to pick one face off circle. I also had to hope for these two to face off, as I didnt know what would be happening with line matchups from the coaches. For whatever reason, it happened early in the first period. After that, I don't remember them facing off again. I don't think the Matthews line played the McDavid line the rest of the night, so I was lucky it happened once in the four possible face off circles. The picture represents more of a symbolic representation of two generational players, even it's just a simple face off photo.


Andreas Johnsson First Period Hat Trick: Kind of a funny story about this one -- During the first period, I had been getting emails about shooting Justin Bieber in a suite, as he was in town watching the game. Just as I was about to leave my photo hole, an email came in saying the photo op was delayed. Moments later, Johnsson skates by with his arms up after scoring a hat trick, which he managed to do in the first period alone. Absolutely no disrespect to Bieber - but I am glad I did not miss Johnsson's big moment. 

Mitch Marner Subway: In a well-kept secret, the Maple Leafs took the subway to an outdoor public practice at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto. Marner is seen here doing what he usually does, having fun and enjoying the moment, during his morning commute to work.

Freddy on the Subway - Freddy is serious and focused when you watch him prepare and as he commands the crease. Here, he is having fun on the subway ride to the outdoor practice and I could tell he enjoyed that day. I love that he is sitting down with his pads on the way to Osgoode Station. 


City Hall: Whenever hockey is played outside with NHL teams, it's always best to shoot a little wider to show good atmosphere. In this situation, I had waited for players to enter the scene, to make sure we could tell the story of the outdoor hockey practice. 

Kadri Celly: There is always great emotion from Kadri when he scores. I always love to see this kind of emotion after a goal. My main lens I use is a 28-300mm lens, which allows me to go pretty wide, that is why you can see the edge of the photo hole in the side of the frame.


Tavares joins the Leafs: This was shot on opening night. I like the moment because it's the first time he's introduced on opening night, as he skates towards his new team.

Morgan Rielly Overhead Goal: It's not often you get a defenceman close to the net scoring goals. This picture was shot using a camera mounted in the catwalks fired using a remote radio. Morgan had an incredible year offensively, and is seen here scoring the game winner against Ottawa.

Frederik Andersen Spotlight: This was shot using a netcam, a camera mounted in a polycarbonate box attached to the bar in the middle of the net. At the start of every second period, they shine the spotlight on him, creating these starburst lighting effects.


Behind the Scenes Keep Up: Any chance to shoot behind the scenes images is great, so I try to take advantage of that when I can. This was before game 2 in Boston, where the guys played keep-up with a soccer ball to warm up. I love the lightbulbs in the ceiling, and the way it reflects in the floor. This is just outside the Leafs locker room.

Auston Matthews Shadowplay: Every game during warm ups, I try to think of creative things we can do. I turned only one side of the stadium strobes (flashes), to cast the shadows from the fans as Auston Matthews skates by.


Morgan Rielly: During every game, Morgan stands at the same spot before exiting the dressing room. Before the door is left open for the guys to walk to the ice, it opens and closes two or three times for whatever reason. Every once in a while you can catch Morgan just as the doors close.

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