You’ve seen the photos.
The emotion seen on the faces of Washington Capitals players capturing their first Stanley Cup last week, led by captain Alexander Ovechkin, who has since captivated the sports world with his post-win shenanigans.
Photos of him lifting the Cup at a Tiesto concert. Photos of him swimming in a fountain. Photos of him drinking from the Cup. Photos of him botching a first pitch at a Washington Nationals game, then photos of him putting it down the plate in his second try.
And while our phones allow anyone to feel like a photographer, we still rely on the eyes of professionals who capture a moment in time for the world to see and remember.
While Gabe and Tara Willett of Asvitt Photography have served as the Stockton Heat’s Official Photographers since the Stockton Thunder days, right by their side has been Jack Lima, an amateur photographer who’s turned what was once his hobby, into something more.
“I started out doing baseball since I was a big fan and that evolved into hockey,” Lima explained of his early days taking photos at sporting events. “I always enjoyed collecting trading cards and magazines to look at the pictures, and that’s what got me interested in taking photos. So, I took cameras out to sporting events and began taking pictures, and I’d find that when I’d ask the players to sign them, they’d ask me where I got it from.
“I guess if pro athletes like your pictures you’re doing something right!”
Despite having a “real job”, Lima treats his hobby of sports photography as seriously as a professional who shoots for a living does. Not only does he shoot for the Stockton Heat, where his photos can be seen through marketing materials, giveaways and even in newspapers in both Stockton and Calgary, he also shoots for Pro Hockey News, has freelanced for the Stockton Record, and he’s also his harshest critic, a trait that all perfectionists have!
For photographers, it’s always about the perfect shot.
“I probably average 600 to 700 a night when I shoot Heat games,” Lima said. “If there’s a new player I don’t have photos of I may shoot more of that particular player, but out of that 700, I may like 15 to 20 of them. When I shoot, especially in the scrums in front of the net, I’ll take a bunch because you never know what’s going to happen, and maybe one out of those 20 pictures you’ll have the puck going into the net.
“You try to anticipate the action and hope you get that shot.”
Lima anticipated a call that has come now four times in his photography career, the call from Pro Hockey News to shoot a Stanley Cup Final.
This time in Las Vegas.
“ProHockeyNews.com has been recognized by the National Hockey League as a legitimate news service,” Lima discussed. “For the last 10 years, Pro Hockey News has been represented at the Stanley Cup Finals. There were two photographers, me out west and another photographer on the East Coast who shot in Washington. If the Final is out West, I usually get the assignment.”
In fact, Jack has shot the Stanley Cup being presented to the victors four of the last six times it’s been handed out! Twice he took photos of the Los Angeles Kings winning Cups in 2012 and again in 2014 along with taking photos of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 while winning the Cup in San Jose and most recently his experience in Vegas with the Capitals hoisting the cup.
“You can’t be a fan, you have to stay in the moment, but it is such a cool experience,” Lima said with a grin from ear-to-ear. “Having an opportunity to witness the Cup being handed out, and to be so close, I’m really fortunate to be able to experience that. You’re literally brushing shoulders with all these big stars. In fact, one of the Capitals players came by and patted me on the shoulder, and at one point, Alex Ovechkin was in an interview, and when he came out of the scrum, he bumped into me.
“It’s really a neat experience.”
Over the course of the Cup clinching Game 5, Lima estimates he took 2,000 photos. While not all of the photos will end up being winners, he felt like it was going to be a good night for photos once the Capitals battled back to take a late lead. It was then decision time.
Stop shooting the game, head down to the Zamboni Tunnel and enter the ice for a possible Cup presentation, or maintain his position and continue photographing the game action. It may have been risky, but Lima made the right decision to head down to the tunnel and wait.
“We have a mandatory photographers meetings two-hours before puck drop, and with this one being a potential clinching game, it was a lot more intense where they give you specific rules,” Lima explained. “There are only two or three photographers, typically from the NHL and Getty, that get on the ice immediately after the final horn. The rest of us have to be in the Zamboni tunnel with five-minutes left in the game.
“They lay out carpets for us on the side of the boards and we have to stay on those carpets until the team takes their team photo with the cup. Once that occurs, we get to come out on the ice. From the carpet though, you can still get the guys skating around with the Cup right in front of you and get some good shots.
“Seeing Alex Ovechkin get the Cup was really exciting. He had a lot of emotion, which makes for great pictures.
“When you shoot the actual game, you miss a lot of it because you’re viewing the game through a lens.”
Besides being credentialed at the Stanley Cup Finals, Jack has taken photos during Heat home and away games, has photographed the Penticton Young Stars Classic, San Jose Sharks games and much more. For what began as a hobby, Lima has truly transformed into a seasoned professional photographer, who has a terrific portfolio of action shots over the years. While still holding a “real job”, Lima has driven and flown countless miles to attend sporting events and spent countless dollars on upgrading his gear for the latest and greatest that technology has to offer.
And despite the fact he probably could go “pro” with his hobby and turn it into career, that’s not necessarily Lima’s priority.
“I’ve always been afraid of this turning into another ‘job’, and that’s not what I want,” Lima said. “I’ve shot for newspapers before, and you miss a lot of the game because you’re downloading photos during the game and you have deadlines to meet. I have about a year-and-a-half before I retire from my ‘real’ job, but maybe when I retire I’ll have some more energy to focus on this.”
Until then, Lima will enjoy taking photos that Heat fans enjoy, and getting fun assignments like shooting the Stanley Cup Final, capturing moments in time that fans everywhere can enjoy!