Over the weekend (Jan. 30-31, 2016), I had my first taste of what working in the rink of a National Hockey League team might be like. St. Cloud State participated in the North Star College Cup at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN (typically host to the Minnesota Wild), and as a team photographer I had the opportunity to cover the event.
It was a wonderful, but unexpectedly overwhelming experience. The week leading up to the event I had some nerves, but mostly was excited to be alongside my team for just another set of hockey games. Personally, I enjoy shooting road games more than any others throughout the season, and have felt that way since my first season with the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the USHL. With Dubuque, I would ride the team bus with players and coaches to nearby Iowa arenas. During these times, more than any, is when I truly felt like I was part of the team. It is difficult to describe, because I am not a player, I’m just a photographer, but the hockey community and the teams I have worked for over the years have become only what I can define as a family. On road games, it’s just me and the team/staff hanging out, without any of the home-rink drama or craziness. I could go on for days with all of the things I love about the sport of hockey, the people I’ve met because of it, and the memories it has given me. And I am so grateful for all of it.
For the past year or so my “thing” has been #NHLbound, meaning I am (hopefully) on my way to a career working for a professional hockey team in the NHL. I have been in NHL rinks before, but only to watch games, never to work or cover an event. Walking through the halls of the pressbox and underneath the stands of the rink, the same halls where hockey professionals have worked day in and day out for many seasons (since the opening of the Xcel Center in 2000) was an unreal rush of emotion for me. I had a full on panic attack, shaking and sweating, my mind going a thousand miles a minute, while simultaneously feeling unbelievably happy and inspired to just be standing where I was.
I want this so badly, more than anything. To work in the NHL is my dream, and being in that rink just made the dream feel one step closer.