“It remains the sport’s defining image,” Craig MacInnis says in his book, Remembering Bobby Orr (1999), and more, too:
It is the image of the sporting hero as Superman, as a winged deity taking flight while his earthbound adversaries (goalie Glenn Hall, defenceman Noel Picard) huddle in bleak resignation.
I don’t know if huddle is the word: Hall looks like a gust from a passing freight train blew him over, while Picard looks properly pissed. But yes, true enough, Ray Lussier’s photograph of Orr’s 1970 overtime goal is one of hockey’s most memorable and expressive.
But is it, as Roy MacGregor was saying in yesterday’s Globe and Mail, the photo that “says more about the joy of victory and the frustration of defeat than any snapshot the game has known”? No. Because what about Denis Brodeur’s indelible portrait of Paul Henderson moments after his winning goal in 1972? Or, for that matter, Frank Lennon’s? (Both photographers shot Henderson in the moment after he’d scored; Lennon’s photo is the one where Henderson’s eyes are open.)
Henderson’s joy is roughly equal to Orr’s, I’d say, even if he doesn’t get as much air. Where the 1972 images claim their advantage, to me, is in the textures of Soviet disappointment that they depict. With a few exceptions, the people in the crowd behind haven’t realized what’s happened yet, not in the way the players on the ice have. Despair is dawning through the disbelief out there while, in the Brodeur version if not the Lennon, Tretiak glares angrily in Henderson’s direction. It’s hard to imagine a bitterer win or, for that matter, a sweeter loss.