Monday, May 10, 2010

Being at the right place at the right time

Thirty years ago today Ray Lussier from the Boston Record took the most famous hockey photo of all time.

I have an original of this photograph hanging in my office and I've looked at it countless times. I doubt a photographer would even get this photo today since we tend to shoot with longer lenses and less goal-mouth action.

Anyway I thought you might enjoy the story of this photograph... as told at the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame.

Although the above may be recognized as the most famous photograph in New England sports history, or for that matter, all of hockey history, many may not know the story behind the photograph.

It was taken by a veteran photographer, the late Ray Lussier of Atkinson, N.H. Ray started his career in 1964, briefly working for the old Haverhill Journal before the paper folded. Now shooting for the old Boston Record-American he found himself in the right place at the right time!!

Here, Bobby Orr scored his first Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Bruins. It was only 40 seconds into overtime and Orr's magical split-second flying-through-the-air is a moment in time immortalized by Lussier's camera.

The venue was Boston Garden. It was Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals against St. Louis. Outside the arena, it was a hot 93-degree afternoon on a Sunday in May, the 10th, 1970 - Mother's Day. A goal by Johnny Bucyk evened up the score at 3-3 forcing overtime. The Bruins first Cup in 29 years finally seemed anything but elusive and as a bonus could be earned on home ice.

A limited number of photographers were lucky to be assigned front-row stools giving them access to cubby-holes in the protective glass along the boards, in the four corners of the rink. Lussier had been situated in an East end corner. Anticipating that the Bruins would pull out all the stops to win, Lussier calculated that most of the action would take place in the West end of the rink, particularly if they scored. While the ice was being flooded for the sudden-death period, Lussier headed to the opposite end, finding an empty stool complete with cubby-hole. The stool had been vacated by a competing Boston newspaper photographer, apparently in search of a refreshment.

The hot temperature outdoors meant for very unpleasant hot and steamy conditions inside the Garden. Lussier, who loved to recant the events of that day, reminded people that anyone having to wear a suit and tie couldn't be blamed for wanting a drink. He planned to stay in the empty stool he found, only until its original occupier returned, but when he did 40 seconds later, it was all over and Lussier snapped what would become one of the most famous photographs in our time.

In a split-second, Lussier caught the moment on film - the goal and Bobby Orr in mid-air flight, tripped by Blues' defenseman Noel Picard. The St. Louis net minder was Glenn Hall.

Officially the crowd was suppose to number 13,909, but it was determined that a couple of thousand more gained entry by sneaking in through fire escapes or bribing ticket takers.

Lussier had taken a few shots of the winning goal and headed back to his newsroom to develop the film. His sports editor Sam Cohen saw the contact sheet and pointed to one particular frame and said, ''That one right there! Print it. Big!''

Lussier in telling the story would always say he would never have got the picture if the other photographer didn't go running off to get a beer. Although laughing about it, he was said to be always modest about his great sense for action photos.

Bobby Orr left a legacy for being in the right place at the right time and we can say, "So did Ray Lussier."

Rob Skeoch

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