Behind the lens on Habs photo day

Monday, 21.11.2005 / 12:00 AM / News
Montreal Canadiens
Team photographer spills the beans on what really happens during the Canadiens team photo

Assigned to their specific places, the Canadiens chit-chatted before the team photo was taken.

MONTREAL - For most people, their last class photo dates back to their grade school days when they never knew who was going to make a funny face or slip two fingers behind their head just before the flash popped. For the Canadiens, photo day comes a couple of times a year and apparently some things never change.

"Normally, everything goes smoothly," said longtime team photographer Bob Fisher, who snapped the Canadiens' 2005-06 team photo last week. "But whenever you have a photo with that many people involved you really never know."

Thanks to modern technology, unforeseen problems like Alex Kovalev not being able to attend due to his scheduled knee surgery in Pittsburgh are solved by getting a little creative in the editing stage. But players, coaches or management not showing up is only one of the potential problems that stand in the way of Fisher capturing the perfect shot.

"I've been doing this for a long time and let me tell you I've seen it all," said Fisher who joined the team during the 1985-86 season. "My first trip with the team was to Calgary in the spring of 1986. We came back with the Cup and that's when I knew I had the greatest job in the world.

"My first team photo was the one we took with the Cup that spring and it's my favorite one but not only for that reason," admitted Fisher. "I always take several shots and then select the best one. In the first one I shot that day, captain Bob Gainey actually stood up raised his fist over his head just before I took the shot. It really captured the moment and was the perfect way to cap off that season."

Player ad-libs didn't always turn out as well as Gainey's did back in 1986.

"Some players just didn't like the camera even though the camera loved them," said Fisher. "Like Chris Chelios, he couldn't stand getting his picture taken. One year he even went as far as to stick his tongue out at me during the team photo."

Another former captain also had Fisher ready to pull his hair out one year.

"Mike Keane and I got pretty close over the years," said Fisher. "One time just to get under my skin, the son of a gun winked at me! I couldn't believe it."

When asked which team photo means the most to him, Fisher didn't hesitate.

"There are two that I will never forget," recalled Fisher. "One was the year a teenage girl with leukemia named Marie-Hlne Gendron who became the first girl to ever be a part of a team photo. Her family had the winning bid at an auction to be a part of a special team photo and they made her Canadiens dream come true. It was a really emotional moment to see her there among her Habs heroes.

"And then there was the year that Saku Koivu arrived at the team photo after his battle with cancer, that wasn't easy. Seeing our captain sitting there with his bald head, knowing all he had been through, it will be tough to ever top that one."

Fisher would be the first to tell to that he's in the smile business. Anyone who has ever met him knows that Bob can make anyone flash their pearly whites, except for the usually photo-friendly Jose Theodore on a day back in 2003.

"The Canadiens had missed the playoffs that year and Theo made it a point to tell me that he had no intention of smiling that day," said Fisher. "I used every trick in the book and there was nothing I could do. As a photographer I was upset that he refused to crack a smile for me, but it also reminded me of what of kind of a competitor Jose is."

With the Canadiens' scorching start to the 2005-06 season, Fisher could probably have left his flash at home this week. The smiles on the faces of this year's squad surely provided all the light he needed.

Marie-Hlne Gendron's dream came true thanks to her family's bid at an auction. The teenager became the first woman to ever be a part of a team photo in 2000-01.

Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com