Camouflaged cameraman a hit at world juniors: ‘I have the best seat in the house’

Camouflaged cameraman a hit at world juniors: 'I have the best seat in the house'
Camera operator Nathan Eides, left, records Canada celebrating a win over Sweden during IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship action in Halifax on Saturday, December 31, 2022.

The last thing Nathan Eides wants – and he makes this abundantly clear – is to be in the spotlight.

And yet there he is.

Every TV timeout, every goal celebration, every victory, every defeat.

Dressed head-to-toe in white, the camouflaged cameraman on skates is front and centre at the world junior men’s hockey championship inside Halifax’s Scotiabank Centre.

“It’s not lost on me that I have the best seat in the house,” Eides said between two recent games. “It’s pretty neat to be in the middle of everything.”

The 39-year-old originally from Rosenort, Man., manoeuvres around the ice during stoppages to provide an intimate, up-close perspective of hockey’s next stars.

“He’s getting cool shots of the boys,” Canadian defenceman Brandt Clarke said. “I’ve seen him almost get bumped into.

“When I scored against Germany, I smiled for him.”

Eides sits in the penalty boxes and jumps into the fray – specific situations agreed upon with the International Ice Hockey Federation – as soon as play stops.

The Winnipeg-based freelancer, who mostly works for TSN on hockey and football telecasts, said the only time he notices the teenagers changing their behaviour is during warmups.

“They do a little bit more playing with the puck,” he said.

Eides weaves in and out of those chaotic yet ordered sessions where each player has a routine, and potential hazards are plenty.

“Knock on wood, never been hit with a puck,” he said. “I try and patrol the red line as much as possible.

“Then I pick my moments and get in there.”

Eides might be a few centimetres from a goaltender stretching or a silky smooth stickhandler like Canadian phenom Connor Bedard.

“Weird the first time,” Austrian forward Vinzenz Rohrer said. “Hats off to this guy. He always sneaks through everybody.”

“Pretty camouflaged,” Swedish netminder Carl Lindbom added. “The end product is amazing.”

On-ice cameras have been part of European hockey for a while, but the unfettered access at the world juniors is relatively new.

Eides used to only go on the ice at the conclusion of games, but TSN started to push the envelope at the under-18 Hlinka Gretzky Cup in 2018 because it wasn’t an IIHF-sanctioned event.

There was one problem. Eides was dressed in white. His camera wasn’t.

The Great One knew that had to change.

“We were at the hotel after one of the games with my director, (play-by-play man) Gord Miller and Wayne Gretzky,” Eides recalled of that event in Edmonton. “Wayne Gretzky was saying, ‘I love it … but we’ve got to cover that camera in white.’

“That’s where the white camera cover came from.”

Eides’ skate covers, meanwhile, where made by the mother of two TSN production managers adept at sewing.

The on-ice access – there’s another cameraman working in Moncton, N.B., at the tournament’s other venue – increased at the world juniors in 2019 and 2020.

“I was given a little more of a leash where I could go on the ice during TV timeouts,” Eides said.

The leash got longer in 2021 when the tournament went to a bubble format in Edmonton to keep COVID-19 at bay.

And when TSN, which also used on-ice cameras at last year’s women’s world championship, took over Memorial Cup rights last spring, Eides and his bosses wanted to go further.

“I was sitting there thinking, ‘How else can we push this?'” he said. “Maybe I can hop on the ice for warmups and show (the IIHF) I’m not going to be knocking into players.”

The tape went off to the game’s decision-makers, who gave the thumbs up to have Eides out there pre-game.

“It’s important to do the warmups to develop relationships with the players – whether it’s spoken or unspoken,” he said. “Shooting is 10 per cent of the job. The rest of it is the management of people and relationships.”

A former goalie, Eides rarely lifts his skates off the ice when commandeering the camera to both create a steadier shot and lessen the likelihood of him catching an edge.

The married father of three has also garnered a bit of a cult following.

Three fans dressed in white – including helmets – during Canada’s 5-1 victory over Sweden on Saturday clapped every time Eides hit the ice.

“Mom is probably my biggest fan,” he said with a smile.

Eides is also still getting used to his unique version of the limelight.

“I’m behind the camera for a reason,” he said. “I’m a pretty modest individual. I don’t like to detract from what the camera’s actually providing.

“It’s weird to get the attention.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 1, 2023.

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