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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The beauty sports creates allows you to become caught up in the moment. As a fan, it's easy to stop what you are doing and admire what you're seeing. Bennett, with the best seat in the house, doesn't have the luxury of simply admiring. He's responsible for us enjoying that moment forever and those who come after us, experiencing it for the first time.

Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy
Three Islanders / B Bennett/GettyImages

"I think back to like 1980 when the Islanders won their first Stanley Cup, and I've talked about this one before, but you kind of put yourself in a zone where you're blocking everything out," says Bennett. "That's the only way to survive on the ice and not get run over by players or get hit in the head with the Stanley Cup. You have to be aware of what's going on, but you have to kind of get in a zone where you have to get that shot. It's for your reputation, and it's for your clients and it's for your company, and all that."

For a franchise reaching the pinnacle for the first time, Bennett was in the midst of the fray running around the ice, firing off shots. From the on-ice celebrations to the locker room mayhem, Bennett brought the scenes to life.

"In 1980 I had gone into such a thing in my head to block out the incredible noise that was going on in that building, that I realized once I jumped over the saddle towards the locker rooms for the celebration stuff, I was like, I could not swallow, I could not hear. It was like I had turned off that sense," said Bennett following Bobby Nystrom's overtime winner in game six of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Flyers. "It was just so deafening in there my ears hurt afterward."

Now, in his 48th season photographing hockey, Bennett has encountered nearly every player in the NHL. Though he spends much time around the same group of players, he tries to remain out of sight to prevent clouding his professional judgment while shooting.

"I don't want anything to come into play when it comes to my editorial integrity," says Bennett. "I think players, for the most part, would understand that's your job. When I started, I was 18 years old. All the payers were older than me. I decided to be a professional in this. Carry yourself like a professional, and keep your distance. You don't want anybody there thinking you’re a fan and hanging out with the players and giving players free photos and stuff."

In 2004, Bennett sold his more than two million photo archive to Getty Images, with who he is now employed. In 2015, partnered with The Hockey News, Bennett published his first book, Hockey’s Greatest Photos: The Bruce Bennett Collection.

This hockey encyclopedia contains some of the sport's most memorable moments ever caught on camera. The cover photo, an image of hockey's most iconic player, is one of Bennett's most meaningful photos taken during his illustrious career.

"I guess it was really the photo that was on the cover of my book from maybe 2015 or so, and it was Wayne Gretzky as an 18-year-old in the locker room wearing shoulder pads and things from the 80s or prior, looking super young," says Bennett regarding the photo. "It was just a classic old black and white. When I look at that, I think I've been in this industry now my 48th year, and I think back to all the players I've seen through all the years, and I look back at photos like that, the old days of black and white photography and the grime and gritty feeling from that sort of thing."

Bennett has shown no signs of slowing down and is a mainstay at every Islanders home game. Though he enjoys shooting live-action, he also likes to tell the story off the ice.

"That's the sort of photography id like to get back to," says Bennett. "More of the behind the scenes and the atmosphere you can get to when your shooting available light and life behind the scenes."