Exclusive: Fifty Years of NY Islanders Hockey with Legendary Photographer Bruce Bennett

New York Rangers v New York Islanders
New York Rangers v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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For all involved in the NHL, whether a fan, player or employee, the COVID pandemic was a strange time to be in a hockey arena. A full and engaged arena is what creates the atmosphere that makes hockey unique. For Bennett, this was a new challenge, as the 40+ years prior, there were always fans in the stands.

New Jersey Devils v New York Islanders
New Jersey Devils v New York Islanders, Bruce Bennett/GettyImages / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

"Yeah, I guess photographers are a little like the players, we feed off the energy. In front of a packed house where the fans are going wild, photographers typically shoot more," says Bennett. "When the players get up for the game as they will when it's a full crowd rooting them on, there's just more to shoot. You lost that extra dimension fans bring, especially the rabid fans that get the players in the game. It's for them or against them."

As far as rabid fans go, on March 1, 2019, Bennett had a front-row seat as John Tavares returned to Nassau Coliseum after signing with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. In charge of capturing the moment, Bennett prepared himself for what would be one of the most anticipated moments for Isles fans in quite some time.

"In that game, there were a couple of things I tried to visualize in advance, especially when you're placing remote cameras," said Bennett. "For that, the image I wanted was him skating over the islander logo shooting straight down."

The first time Tavares stepped on the ice would be one of the most recognized moments of the night for Bennett, as he knew the fans were preparing to give a not-so-welcoming return to their former captain.

"Warmups, I had to make sure, of course, I was at the glass, and that was, you know, over the top," said Bennett. "I don't really know how to phrase it. Fans are fans, and they live for their team, and you can't play the sport without the fans."

Bennett has had his fair share of experiences within the unique moments in Islanders lore. He has captured nearly every memorable moment for the franchise since Nassau Coliseum opened its doors in 1972. One of his most memorable shots by Islanders standards would come off the ice.

Mike Bossy is arguably the greatest goal-scorer of all time. At .762 goals per game, Bossy has scored at the highest clip in NHL history. Bennett discovered a way to encapsulate Bossy's goal-scoring prowess into a single photo.

"You know you always wonder what it would be like to soak cotton balls in kerosine and staple it to the bottom of a hockey stick and light it on fire," said Bennett of his pyrotechnics within the confines of Nassau Coliseum. "What you do find out though, is that the fire alarms at Nassau Coliseum are very sensitive, so we did set off the fire alarm when we did that."

The photo would become the perfect metaphor for the style Bossy played with.