2010 Rick Madonik

Rick Madonik

February 28, 2010 stands as one of the greatest moments in Canadian sporting history. The end of competitions at the spectacular Olympic Winter Games at Vancouver came to a dramatic finish when Sidney Crosby beat Ryan Miller in overtime to steer Canada to Gold over the USA in men’s hockey.

It was a goal – and a celebration – that now finds itself entrenched in this country’s rich sporting history. Paul Henderson in 1972 and Darryl Sittler in 1976 had previously touched off Canadian pride with shots in international hockey showdowns to last a lifetime. Now, it’s Crosby right there with them.

Toronto Star photographer Rick Madonik was at Canada Place and one of his career highlights — snapping the Crosby goal and the ensuing celebration — led to unexpected    personal recognition. His work that day makes him recipient of the 2010 George Gross Award for Outstanding Sports Photography.

“It was the moment of the Olympics for me and I will hold it dear for years to come,” said Madonik whose freelance nomadic ways in the business of journalism settled in December 1999 when The Toronto Star finally made him a full-time hiring.

Since then, the Toronto-born Madonik has provided stirring images from such assignments as the famine in Africa (Ethiopia) 2000, the war in Afghanistan (2006, two separate trips), the Israel-Lebanon War (2006), the Virginia Tech shootings (2007), the inauguration of Barack Obama (2008), the Vancouver Olympics (2010) as well as numerous National and Provincial election campaigns

On February 28, 2010, Madonik’s day began by arriving at the arena one hour before the doors opened to the media. He secured his position by 8:30 that morning, hours in advance of puck drop.

“The corner was crowded but I got the best available seat by being early (wires occupying other corner seats were pre-assigned),” Madonik said. “When the US scored with 28 seconds left, I figured the momentum had turned and Canada would lose, which meant all the jubilation would be on the other end. Those who were sitting on either side of me had vacated their seats with 10 minutes left in third period in order to marshal for the post game, on-ice presentations.

“When the Crosby goal happened and the celebration immediatgely drifted to the corner, photographers up the glass were climbing high to look down on the gathering. I had the only unobstructed view but it was all backs of heads except for the brief moment it opened up, and I managed to get two-three frames off. Actually had the wrong camera in my hand (the wide angle was stuck under the seat) and shot it all full frame.

“I had to lean back as far as possible to fit the scene in. As the scene dissipated, I fully realized no other photographers in the building had the view I had because the others had left in the third period. Originally I was to go immediately after the game to get my seat for the Closing Ceremony and then file, but I called the office to explain the situation. They could wait an hour to see my pictures or blow off the Closing Ceremony and have them in five minutes. The Closing Ceremony was left to the wires!”

It was a wise choice.

“As I edited my pics (the goal itself and the jubilation) I couldn’t take the smile off my face,” Madonik said. “Friends and rivals drifted by my computer to have a look at the images. Most congratulated me on the pics and patted me on the back. One mumbled, after seeing it ‘I knew I should have stayed there’ and walked off somewhat dejected.”

Like Crosby, Madonik had netted a winner, too.

…. by John Iaboni