To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high
As we head into the week of Remembrance Day those timeless words, taken from the World War I poem In Flanders Fields by John McRae, always ring true for me. Those same words also have a connection to the world of hockey, inspiring generations of Montreal Canadiens players from the walls of their dressing room in the old Forum, and now the Bell Centre.
Another passing of a torch, of sorts, has happened in the Ottawa hockey community as the Adult Hockey Skills (AHS) program, first started in 2009 by then Carleton University student (not to mention varsity hockey team player) John Gleeson, has been handed over to Ryan Medel to continue the task of helping adult recreational hockey players take their game to the next level.
The cool and wet weather of November has come to Ottawa but this photo shoot took place a few months ago during the hot weather of July. The AHS program is run out of the Carleton University Ice House. In the summer the program is run once per week, every Tuesday morning. During the fall and winter, the program is run twice per week, where Monday mornings session is generally for more beginner level players a the Tuesday morning is for “advanced” (relative term) players. During the summer all levels are put together in the one session.
I first wrote about AHS in the blog article Time to up your game.
I am usually a participant in the Tuesday morning program, but on July 29 I brought my photo gear instead of my hockey gear for some on ice pics of the instructors and students in action. That particular morning the ice surface as sectioned into three stations for skills development. The middle of the ice was used by Ryan and players worked on passing drills. To up the difficulty level, Ryan used some devices made of old hockey sticks and pucks, that were used as obstacles to pass the puck through when passing to your partner. At other times during the program these same devices are used for stickhandling drills. You can see Ryan working with some of the student on their passing in the lead image to this article and in the image immediately above this paragraph.
One end of the ice was used for skating drills, and the other end for shooting drills. The skating drill that week were focused on backwards skating and backwards cross-unders. In the image below AHS instructor Liane Quenneville demonstrates perfect form with her cross-unders. Lianne is the head instructor for the Monday morning program and she is a skating master. This image is a 1/800s in order to reduce any motion blur. The remaining specs are f4 at ISO 2000.
During the summer program there is a wide range of ability. In the next image Lianne is patiently working with a student who is just starting to learn backwards skating. I know hard hard it is to learn new physical skills as an adult and I have been there myself, struggling and waiting for a breakthrough to come. My own backwards skating is 100% improved from a few years ago due to working with Lianne.
In addition to getting some photos for the AHS web site, I wanted to have some fun with this shoot and see what I can get creatively. After getting several images of the skating in sharp focus, I wanted to experiment with some motion blur. I used a classic panning technique for the next image. I was lying on my side on the middle of the face off circle so that i could get a view from a low angle since this will generally result in a more dramatic angle. You need a slow shutter speed to get a good pan shot, but how slow? After some experimentation I settled on 1/20s. An aperture of f9 gets me decent depth of field, and the ISO settled in at 250. When panning, the objective is to get a good amount of motion blur in the background, some blur on the periphery of the subject, but some key elements of the subject being reasonably sharp. In this image you can see the face, helmet, and jersey logo are pretty sharp. there is some motion blur on the skates (they are moving !) and of course a fair amount of blur with the background. What is interesting is that the motion blur has almost completely eliminated some of the other people on the ice surface eliminated and thus makes for a cleaner background. Look closely to see if you can make out where those other people are in the image.
The third member of the instructor trifecta is Mitch Porowski. Currently a third year player with the men’s varsity Ravens, Mitch played his junior hockey in OHL with the Brampton Battalion and with the QMJHL for the Gatineau Olympiques. Mitch won the CIS Rookie of the Year award for the 2012/2013 season and was the team’s leading scorer. Let’s just say he knows a thing or two about shooting and scoring so it was a logical choice to have Mitch run the shooting drills that morning. One of the key items that AHS teaches is called shooting in stride. This makes it hard for the goalie to know when the shot is coming. I took the photo below of Mitch shooting in stride during a game which the Ravens won 4-0 in the the OUA quarter final against Nippissing. In this image Mitch has just released the puck in the middle of his skating stride.
And I will end with a quick update about AHS founder John Gleeson. I can assure you that he does not have “failing hands”. After graduating from Carleton, John completed his MBA at Dalhousie University in Halifax. He is now working out of New York City as VP Business Development at Affinio Inc. John can rest easy knowing that his AHS baby is in good hands with the new leadership.