Journal

A NEW ADVENTURE

On the 10th of June, I started a new adventure as a director at Fathom 100, which is the monicker of my new department at The Richards Group.

It’s in its infancy & we are working to define what our core mission is, but for now, it’s safe to say that I will be doing work very similar to that which I’ve always done. As of now, we are just me. However, my collaborators on that work are 750 of the brightest minds in advertising. That part really excites me.

It’s a pretty incredible opportunity to begin something new inside an organization with their creative track record and reputation.

Since making the change, there's one question I have received more than any other:

WHY?

A few weeks before I began, Stan Richards (in case it’s not painfully obvious, he’s the owner of TRG) asked to meet with me. I was assured this wasn’t an “interview”, the job was mine. He just wanted to talk.

After 20 minutes of get to know you talk he shifted in his chair, looked me square in the eye and asked, “You’ve been making a living for a long time, why would you want to leave that to join us?"

This was my answer:

There’s a big difference between making a living and thriving in life. The last few years, I felt like the opportunities to thrive have waned. It’s as if I ran through the doors of a great looking building, climbed all it’s stairs and was now frustrated by the ceiling above my head.
 
I thrive when I embrace challenge and there were no more challenges to take me higher. To grow, to thrive, would actually require me to find a new building.
 
I had some great times, but a few years of introspection made it pretty clear that my successes would always be minor. I was, at best, a very reliable minor league ball player. And the Yankees called to say they had a spot for me.
 
I made the change because I wanted to see if I had what it takes to play major league ball. I wanted that challenge more than I wanted to be on the top floor of a short building.
The view from my new desk.

The view from my new desk.

This wasn’t a decision I entered into lightly. I operated as Trey Hill Photographs for 7 years and there’s something to be said for the fact that I could have gone for 7 more. But, for the sake of complete transparency, my wife & I had been talking about making a change like this for many years. Owning your own business is really tough and we have more than our fair share of scars to prove it.

This change means giving up some things. My time operating as the photographer for the Dallas Stars coming to an end & no longer acting as an auteur on projects come to mind pretty quickly. Some of the things I leave behind, I do so with a very heavy heart. But, the upside is that none of those things mean walking away from the people who made them special.

The relationships were always my favorite part of self employment. The work was occasionally cool. The opportunities were often once in a lifetime. But the people were what kept me going.

Thankfully, I take all of those relationships with me into this new season of life. And, whatever it is that gets built will benefit greatly from knowing them.

The Good Guys

 
He’s that guy... that just kind of does everything for you.
— Jeff Carter on Jamie Benn
 

Yesterday, Jamie Benn & Team Canada dispatched the mighty American’s in Sochi. My mighty Americans. Not long after, I received a text from my son, Brendan. He was mad. At Jamie Benn.

Jamie Benn faces off with Team Canada captain, Sidney Crosby, at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX.

Jamie Benn faces off with Team Canada captain, Sidney Crosby, at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX.

Here in Dallas, we’re big Benn fans. He’s our captain. So his anger didn’t last long… but, like Brendan, Jamie’s game winning goal (his second of the tournament), put most hockey fans in this city into an emotional conundrum.

But, not me. I’ll cheer for Benn every time. Even as he’s relegating USA Hockey to the Bronze Medal Game.

I will cheer because he’s one of the good guys. And, as the father of a young, impressionable hockey player, I’m of the opinion there aren’t nearly enough good guys. I’ve written before about the good guys we’ve had in Dallas. But, in all honesty, Jamie has quietly filled what I once thought were un-fillable shoes.

At this point, I could give you stats & examples that demonstrate his leadership & general hockey dominance, but, that’s not what this is about. Instead, I’ll tell you a story.

Jamie & his brother Jordie Benn, for the Dallas Stars Foundation

Jamie & his brother Jordie Benn, for the Dallas Stars Foundation

Last summermy son was cut from his travel hockey team. As a parent, It was gut wrenching to watch, but to his credit, he hardened his resolve to play at that level and landed himself a roster spot on a new team. The excitement faded quickly as the team struggled, going winless in their first handful of games. I was shooting Jamie and his brother Jordie for the Dallas Stars Foundation during one of those games as the score updates from my wife kept rolling in and finally, as the sun was setting, the final score came back. Another loss.

As we finished the final shot (which ended up as the poster), I told Jamie & Jordie Brendan’s story. Then asked if they’d be willing to send him some encouragement. Without missing a beat, they grabbed my phone & recorded a simple video wishing him luck with his season & encouraging him to work hard.

I have to think that Jamie knows a thing or two about getting slighted by a team he desperately wanted to make. This past summer, Team Canada sent out 47 invites to its orientation camp, but nothing came Jamie’s way. He wasn’t considered one of the best 47 Canadian born players. But he worked hard & earned the honor of wearing his countries sweater.

Jamie in his Team Canada sweater, a week before departing for Sochi, Russia.

Jamie in his Team Canada sweater, a week before departing for Sochi, Russia.

Then, when he arrived in Sochi, he was relegated to the end of the bench where 4 forwards have to share 3 spots on the ice. But he worked hard, earning the praise of his coach and a little more ice time. But, for most, Canada still only had eyes for Crosby, so Jamie continued to work, scoring twice, both game winners, one dispatching Team USA, and earned the adoration of his nation.

The good guys, in my opinion, aren’t defined by the colors they wear, but by the character they show when the deck is stacked against them. By that definition, Jamie Benn gets the C, once again.

Speaking of good guys: good guys credit the photos they post online, so, please don’t post this on your blog/tumblr/Pinterest, etc. without a photo credit. Thanks!

10 for 10

Morrow embodies nearly all the characteristics Canadians so admire in hockey players: bravery, unselfishness, resilience, toughness, honesty. That skill set made him important to Team Canada. Then he started scoring goals.
— Ian MacIntyre, Vancouver Sun

Hearing the news of Brenden Morrow's trade, I knew I wanted to share some of my favorite images from the last 5 seasons of The Captain. But, before I get to that, I'd like to put everything - my work as a photographer & storyteller for the Dallas Stars and life as a hockey fan - in a more personal context. Because Morrow is at the center of all of that, when you boil it down.

I became a Dallas Stars fan in the fall of 2000 thanks to my friend Sam Ditore. I was newly married & recently out of college. My sports consciousness was waking back up. Despite my parents meeting on a hockey rink in Houston back when all the Howe's played for the Aeros, I'd lost touch with my hockey roots. Sam told me I needed to pick a favorite player.

After watching a handful of games, I chose a fresh faced kid who was in his first full season with the big club. He'd just received the number 10 from Brett Hull, a real hockey number. I chose Brenden Morrow because he seemed to embody the qualities I remembered my dad espousing as essential to hockey: honest play, self sacrifice and unfathomable toughness. Morrow led with his nose, didn't back down and played the way I hoped to live - right at the limit in pursuit of what mattered most. For him it was a piece of vulcanized rubber; I hadn't quite found my focus at that point, but when I did, I wanted to go for it the way he played every shift. No wonder he was such a great captain.

Fast forward a couple of years. My wife was pregnant and we had just found out we were having a little boy. A name, in my opinion means everything, so I wanted a name that he could grow into. A name representative of the right way to move through life; a name that was unflinchingly tough and inspired the pursuit of what mattered most. I jokingly went through the entire 2002-2003 Dallas Stars roster. When I finally got to Brenden, my wife & I felt like it fit. When we finally met our son a few months later, it absolutely fit, though we did change the spelling just a bit.

Brendan meets Brenden, Oct. 2008

Brendan meets Brenden, Oct. 2008

So, you see, when you hear that guy has been traded away after spending every minute of his career in your favorite team's sweater, it makes you feel two very polarizing things.

The first is a deep sadness. It makes no sense that we get attached to pro athletes the way we do. Actually, it's really silly that we do. But, for me, Morrow was a guy that had come to symbolize something far more meaningful than sport. I modeled my pursuit of a career as a storyteller after his pursuit of a puck and I hope a little of that will rub off on my son as he grows into his name and finds his passion, vulcanized rubber or otherwise, to chase after.

The second feeling, however, is unbridled excitement. Brenden is the kind of player who does it right every shift and is the kind of player whose name deserves to be immortalized on the trophy of all trophies. For his entire NHL career, he's been on a team that was either non quite good enough (1999-2000 and 2007-2008 come to mind) or really pretty terrible. So, as a fan of Morrow, the man and the player, I hope his move to Pittsburg alongside some of the most dynamic players in the game, brings him a renewed passion to pursue the thing he's been after since he first came into the league.

And if he does get himself a Stanley Cup, you can bet my Brendan and I will be watching and cheering.

These are my 10 favorite images of #10 and a little bit of the story behind them:

10 - Father

Brenden-Morrow-calls-home-photo-by-Trey-Hill

One of my favorite stories coming out of Morrow's trade was this one about his daughter comforting her mom by saying, "Mom, it's going to be okay, it's only a couple of months and he has a chance to win the Cup."

It instantly reminded me of this image from December, 2011, after Richard Bachman's shutout at Madison Square Garden. It was late and we ended up having an epic haul to New Jersey in front of us, but Morrow stole a few minutes to call home. I guess he's human, after all.

9 - The Other Cup

Brenden-Morrow-tapes-his-stick-photo-by-Trey-Hill

I'll never forget walking into the AAC on opening night of the 2011-2012 season and seeing this image on the souvenir cups. I've had my images show up in a lot of places, but that was a first.

8 - Chirping

Brenden-Morrow-chirps-the-Chicago-Blackhawks-photo-by-Trey-Hill

Hockey moves fast, especially in that spot right between the two benches. It's a shooting position that gives you an incredible perspective on the game and the games within the game. This image really gives you the sense of the speed with which stories unfold during a game and the kind of Captain Morrow was.

7 - Karting

Brenden-Morrow-laughs-with-Dallas-Stars-teammates-photo-by-Trey-Hill

The access the Dallas Stars have afforded me in my five seasons of shooting is unprecedented. It's something I never take for granted. Morrow, as the captain, was always the gate keeper of that access. On occasion, I press in a little too close - not for lack of respect, but because I genuinely want to find images I haven't seen before - so, to be invited on a team outing in Washington, D.C., and photograph the guys away from the rink was a highlight.

6 - A Little Something Special

Dallas-Stars-captain-Brenden-Morrow-photo-by-Trey-Hill

This image is just a favorite, but there's no real story behind it. It was shot early in the 2011-2012 season as the Stars were facing New Jersey. If you looked at the scoresheet, you wouldn't see a mention of Morrow, however, he left the franchise with his name all over the place. In 13 seasons with the Stars he served as team captain for 7 of them, sits 2nd all time in Game-Winning Goals (42) and has 3 of the last 4 playoffs goals scored by Dallas in overtime, including that special evening in 2008. So, I figured there was room for at least one image that's just pretty cool to look at.

5 - Face Off

Brenden-Morrow-face-off-win-versus-Colorado-Avalanche-photo-by-Trey-Hill

The Dallas Stars were grasping for playoff hope as the 2010-2011 regular season was coming to an end. If ever there was a time for the captain to rise to the occasion, this was it. Just seconds into the second period, with the Stars up 2-1, Brenden Morrow scored a power play goal that would hold up as the eventual game winner. Playoff hope was alive, if only for a few more days.

4 - The Captain Returns

Brenden-Morrow-at-morning-skate-photo-by-Trey-Hill

This image was taken one year, to the day, after Brenden Morrow learned he'd suffered an ACL injury that would limit his 2008-2009 season to just 18 games. I remember standing outside the locker room at the morning skate as he walked by, the first guy onto the ice that day. I followed him and took two or three frames. It was only later realized the connection between the date of his injury and this image which has always been a favorite of mine.

The work he put in to return from that injury was done in solitude, away from any spotlight and I've always felt you get a fleeting sense of the kind of work it took to come back in this image.

3 - The Warrior Sword

Brenden-Morrow-weilds-Warrior-Sword-photo-by-Trey-Hill

You may remember this story that blew up a few seasons ago. The sword became a symbol of camaraderie for a team that, at the time, couldn't lose. The moment in this image, in my opinion, the high point of that Stars season. A few days later after losses in Calgary and Vancouver, the season came unravelled in Boston.

2 - One of the Last

Brenden-Morrow-takes-the-ice-at-American-Airlines-Center-photo-by-Trey-Hill

Brenden Morrow makes his way to the ice at American Airlines center on Jan. 24th, 2013. A non-moment, really. But sometimes even the non-moments are beautiful, in retrospect. Little did I know at the time, this would be one of the last images I would make of Brenden Morrow in a Stars sweater.

1 - The Face of a Captain

Brenden-Morrow-has-a-black-eye-photo-by-Trey-Hill

I have no shortage of images of Brenden's battered face, but this one really sums it all up. Here you can see the embodiment of  "all the characteristics Canadians so admire in hockey players: bravery, unselfishness, resilience, toughness, honesty." Hands down, this image from Brett Hull night in 2009, is my favorite image of Morrow.