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Miller's one in a million shot!

Steve Russell, Staff Photographer

Sometimes you struggle for something to blog about and sometimes it just hits you!

Last night while covering the Toronto Maple Leafs loss to the Buffalo Sabres I got hit.

Not with an idea, but the puck!

A puck, not THE puck sits in the face-off circle during a stoppage in play.  

Almost seven minutes into the third period Sabres Goaltender Ryan Miller cleared the puck into the corner and managed the perfect shot, through my shooting hole and into my face.


That one-inch-thick, three-inch-diametre and six ounce disc hit me in the right cheek. Any higher it would have hit my eye, lower my mouth, any harder, well, I would have been really messed up.

As the play approached I had just dropped my camera with a 300 f/2.8 into my lap and was bringing my other camera with a 70-200 zoomer up to my eye. I saw the puck coming and tried, unsuccessfully, to get out of the way.

I was at the Zamboni doors where EMS hangs out and was checked out right away, Ryan Miller held the game up a little to make sure I was alright.

An ice pack and I was back to shooting to close out the period. Taking advantage of each stoppage in play to ice my cheek and try to edit on the fly.

Leafs' photographer Graig Abel managed to get the puck for me, something I never got when I had been hit by baseballs twice in my dozen years covering the Jays.

At the end of the game, Ryan Miller skated over and passed the stick through the open Zamboni door to me, a nice gesture.

What moved me more was the fact that as the final horn sounded he immediately skated over to hand me the stick, before his teammates could congratulate him on his shut-out win. Knowing that with a shut-out in the works that he was thinking about me really shows us the caliber of  his character. The stick is a nice souvenir, but Miller skating over before accepting congratulations from his teammates is what I'll remember every time I look at it after the shiner fades. He almost made being hit in the face with a puck worth it. He has also made it hard for me to root against him when he suits up for the American Olympic Hockey Team in Vancouver.

Game Story sidebar about my face

My pictures from the game

My face, a day after, a little less swollen, a little more bruised.

The face, 14 hours later, the puck struck me where the abrasion is on the cheek, the bruising is still coming in! 

Sportsnet Video with Joe Bowen joking about me made it to youtube,

My next assignment, The Buffalo Bills versus the New York Jets on Thursday, cross your fingers for me.

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good little story. saw that happen last night-hope your face heals nice, but it will be a great story to tell. hats off to you for continuing to get the shots and hats off to miller for the ultimate show of class.

As a fellow Sudbury-raised journalist, I'm proud of Russell's takes-a-licking-and-keeps-on-clicking tough professionalism.

Here's looking at you Steve.

My biggest nightmare when shooting down low. Sorry, but seeing you get it in the face kind of takes the 1-in-a-million off the rest of us. :)


I've had a pleasure of meeting you personally a few times at Photo Expo and listening to your talks - very inspiring!

I saw that little accident on TV and would like to congratulate you for being a real pro and finishing the assignment.
As usual your photos from the game were top notch.

something you might not know:

a few years ago some TV hockey program did a profile on Ryan Miller in the off-season.
Apparently, Ryan is an avid photographer himself and likes taking photos wherever he goes.
Perhaps, that's something you both can chat about the next time :)

Heal quickly and have fun shooting the Olympics in Vancouver!

I have to say, goalies are some of the classiest players.

On my first (and only, so far) Leafs road trip game (coincidentally in Buffalo) I had the opportunity to go down to the glass during the pre-game warm-up. There weren't any photographers there so I removed the plexiglass cover from the photographer's hole and began taking some pictures of my own with my little point & shoot. I was a little concerned about the numerous pucks hitting and rolling off the boards/glass, but kept taking pictures anyway. Eventually, when some of the players were lined up in front of me with their backs to the glass, I noticed a glove covering the hole. At first I thought it was one of the Leafs essentially telling me to stop, but then the glove opened and dropped a practice puck through the hole. I looked up and saw Andrew Raycroft's name and number in front of me. He didn't get to play that night, unfortunately, but the Leafs did win. Out of all the Leafs games I've been to that is by far my favourite, mostly thanks to Raycroft. I find it's not often the players acknowledge the fans while they're in the audience, as you can see when many kids' high-five attempts are ignored as the players enter and exit the dressing rooms.

Glad you are OK Steve.. many years ago, Patrick Roy cleared a puck into a hole I was shooting from in Anaheim and destroyed a 70-200mm lens, the filter shattered all over the ice, Sakic came over to check on me as I was stunned, the officials cleaned up the mess and I left that game with a shiner from the camera's eye cup being pushed into my face and one big repair bill. We laughed about it later and I joked about sending him a bill, but a signed puck took the sting away a little bit back then. Happy snapping and don't forget to always shoot with both eyes open! -Shelly

Glad to see you're ok...Here's a little info that people might find interesting....Ryan is an accomplished amateur photographer so I'm sure he felt really bad about what happened.

Wao its very nice and great little story i like this very much.

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