Photographer shoots to give team wings

Sharon Thibodeau may not know everything there is to know about hockey…

Sharon Thibodeau gets distracted by the action on the ice while taking photos the Sicamous Eagles during play against the 100 Mile House Wranglers.

Sharon Thibodeau gets distracted by the action on the ice while taking photos the Sicamous Eagles during play against the 100 Mile House Wranglers.

Sharon Thibodeau may not know everything there is to know about hockey, but she certainly knows and loves the Sicamous Eagles.

Whenever the Junior B Eagles are playing on their home ice at the Sicamous and District Recreation Centre, odds are Thibodeau will be somewhere in the stands or at the boards, dressed in a Sicamous Eagles Jersey, Nikon camera in hand, attempting to take photos of the team – when she isn’t cheering for them.

Thibodeau has been the Eagles’ “official volunteer photographer” since 2007, when she started welcoming players into her home as billets. She says she didn’t know much about hockey at the time, but wanted to do something for “her boys.”

“My sister had billets and my brother-in-law had a nephew, Curtis Summerfelt, who played for the Eagles,” said Thibodeau. “So I’d take pictures of him and take pictures of my boys. So I thought, ‘well, why not take pictures of the other ones?’ You know, the (boys’ families) are living out of town and they don’t get to see them.”

Soon after, Thibodeau was asked by Eagles general manager Wayne March if she’d mind taking photos of the individual players as well as a team shot for the club. She replied, “sure, why not?”

Since then, Thibodeau has established a strong connection to the club and generations of players who have had the opportunity to wear the Eagles’ jersey.

“The players love her,” said March. “She has them all on Facebook and sends them the action photos she takes at the games. Then, at season-end, she compiles a video of their season and gives a CD to each player. And she does this – and much more – as a volunteer. She’s amazing.”

Thibodeau says she’s often asked by Eagles players after games if she managed to get a photo of them. When she does, she’ll share them. Fussy about which pictures she’s willing to share, Thibodeau wants the players to have a photographic keepsake they can be proud of.

“It’s just like having my own kids, you know. It makes them happy, it makes me happy,” said Thibodeau. “That’s what it is, and it’s making memories for them. If I wasn’t there, (their parents)  can’t come down and take pictures.

If I can post them or they post them and share them with their families, you know, they’re proud of themselves and so they should be, and their families are. So that’s good, that’s what I want. I want to make them feel good about themselves, be happy. They’re working hard.”

Thibodeau admits she has an emotional investment in the team, something that worked against her when it came to billeting. She did it for three years, but doesn’t any more as she found herself becoming too attached to her guests.

Thibodeau recalls how one year, early in the season, she broke down crying when she learned two of her billets had been cut from the team.

“I didn’t understand anything – I thought once they got on the team, they’d be on it for the year. I didn’t know about cutting them or trading them. I said I couldn’t stand it anymore; it’s too emotional for me. Now, I feel bad when they do get cut and traded because I understand it a little bit more,” she said.

Eagles club president Lorraine March says Thibodeau’s professional-style photography work is invaluable to the success of the organization.

“And she’s a joy to work with – always upbeat, always positive, and always with a smile on her face,” said Lorraine. “I don’t know what we would do without her.”

Whether it’s at home games, some away games (Thibodeau is always welcome on the Eagles’ bus), breakfast with Santa, or any other event the Eagles are taking part in, Thibodeau usually isn’t far behind with her camera, attempting to catch a memorable memento for the players to remind them their hard work for the team and community of Sicamous hasn’t gone unnoticed.