Gretzky’s first skates for ESPN The Magazine
It’s not often I get a chance to photograph a memorable piece of history. Sure, I’ve photographed in museums, historic grounds, and galleries, but I’ve never had a true one-on-one photo session with a significant piece of history. Well, I got my first opportunity last month, and I think most Canadians would agree, Wayne Gretzky’s first hockey skates are pretty much a cornerstone when it comes to Canadian history.
The shoot was for ESPN The Magazine’s feature on “A History of Sports in 38 Objects”, in last month’s Photo Annual issue. The feature, shot primarily by Svend Lindbaek, is a fantastic, forensic look at the objects that accompanied some of the greatest sports heros of the last hundred years.
We photographed the skates at the D.K. (Doc) Seaman Hockey Resource Centre, the new resource centre for the Hockey Hall of Fame here in Toronto. We were granted a big media room to shoot in, which featured a hockey goal, and a small Vancouver Olympic podium, just sitting in a corner with no fanfare.
Turns out that it’s the goal that Sidney Crosby scored on to win the gold medal in Men’s Hockey at the 2010 Winter Olympics in 2010, and the custom made podium for the on ice award ceremony. It had just arrived, and was on its way into the archive. Wow.
So we got set-up, and when we were ready, the skates were delivered to us in an old Kodak film box. At six inches long, they were quite the sight to behold.
In a word, they were really cute. You can imagine that he must have only been about 4 when he wore them, in 1965, and just jitter bugging around his backyard rink in Brantford, as his father Walter looked on.
You can see by this lighting set-up shot just how small the skates really are:
It’s always a thrill to visit the resource centre, and if you’re a real fan of the game, it’s worth a visit if you’ve got a day to spare.
Here’s the final spread and shot of the skates that were used in the issue: