6 Things: Behind the Camera

Tuesday, 21.04.2009 / 5:05 PM / Features
By Derek Jory
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6 Things: Behind the Camera
Working as a cameraman with the Vancouver Canucks, Dwayne Mitchell gets an up close and personal look at the action that few others get to experience.

Since 1987 Mitchell has boldly positioned himself in the suicide box between the team benches during Canucks home games to capture the game within the game, the nitty gritty of hockey.

The in-your-face seating isn’t without its drawbacks; thick skin is required to get the job done. Mitchell recently revealed six things you should know about being a Canucks cameraman.

1. TALKIN’ SMACK

"The trash talk that goes on between teams is definitely amped up for playoffs. In the regular season the guys you’d typically expect to be trash talking do it all year long, in the playoffs pretty much everybody does it. Alex Burrows is always the best because he does it in both official languages; his verbal judo is excellent. He has great skills to keep it somewhat clean and yet get his point across. Take Game 1 for example when he and Ryan Kesler were jawing with the Blues, I was in a great spot to hear that play out."

2. CRAMPED QUARTERS

"It’s a new thing with the colour guys from TSN being in the box and when they’re in there, I pretty much don’t go in because they feel it’s too crowded. Whereas regularly it’s just Canucks photographer Jeff Vinnick and I. Between the two of us it’s kind of like a subtle dance so that I stay out of his shot and he stays out of my shot, but my shot is moving, so sometimes when the player is coming back towards the bench he has to anticipate that I’m doing a pan with the player so as I’m panning, he’s stepping out of my way."

3. A BETTER ANGLE

"We get a whole lot of different perspective shooting from that spot because it’s reverse angle from all the other cameras. In that position it’s great to shoot feature type material for the Canucks because not only am I the only one getting that unique shot, but I don’t have to follow the puck. I follow the play and that’s not necessarily always where the puck is. There are two guys chasing the puck, but there are eight other guys doing interesting things that nobody else is watching. I try to be focused on something different going on during the play."

4. THE NAME SAYS IT ALL

"It’s called the suicide box for a reason. I’m always in the line of fire of pucks and flying stick is the norm. I’ve been hit numerous times with sticks because there’s only glass on the ice side, that makes for better shots, but when guys get hit there, they’re at full speed and either their body or stick ends up in the box. I use the camera to protect my head, but inevitably you get whacked somewhere. There’s no time to protect yourself from pucks though, I’ve been hit twice directly and it hurts. Last year Markus Naslund hit me right in the gut and knocked the wind out of me, then just a few weeks ago Willie Mitchell flipped a puck out of his zone on a line change and it creamed me in the head. I got three big stitches, but made it back out for the third period." Naslund hit | Mitchell hit

5. PART OF THE ROUTINE

"I’m always on the ice shooting when the team comes out for the game and when Todd Bertuzzi was here he made me part of his pre-game ritual. He would do one lap before the anthem, then I would get a low angle shot from right at centre and he’s come in and snow me and the lens, which is a cool shot. If the ice still had a film of water on it, I would get soaked. Then he would sit down at the end of the bench with a big grin on his face and I would give him the thumbs up and get back to work. It happened once, then he did it again and after the second time I realized it was part of his superstition so we just kept doing it. I didn’t want to mess up his system."

6. BALANCE IS KEY

"Shooting on the ice during warm-up can be tricky. The rink staff has rubber booties that they put over their shoes, but I’ve never worn them because I just find it’s too much hassle to get them off afterwards. I don’t usually have a problem walking on the ice, fresh ice is kind of sticky on runners and when there’s snow it’s no problem. But just before the anthem they haven’t really cut up the ice yet so there’s a little bit of snow and little bit of water and that combination is slippery. Doing the anthem bench pan where I go through and get everybody’s faces, I’ve got to be careful because it’s slippery. I take a lot of baby steps and do a lot of shuffling and I haven’t taken a spill yet."