Q & A with Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning

Ben Bishop is an elite NHL goalie. If you don’t believe us just look at the numbers he has put up since being acquired by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2013: 106 wins and 13 shutouts in 181 games, not to mention he was the backbone of last year’s squad that fell a mere two wins short of the franchise’s second Stanley Cup. Standing at 6’7”, he takes up a large portion of the net and it’s hard to believe that the first goalie to ever shutout the Original-6 New York Rangers in back-to-back playoff games at MSG (Games 5 & 7 of the East Finals) was once traded for journeyman Cory Conacher (remember him!) and a 4th round pick.

He was born in Denver, but grew up in St. Louis before starring in the crease for the University of Maine, and then made his NHL debut with the team he grew up rooting for as you’ll find out below. With Bishop in-goal, the Lightning are now set for the foreseeable future to be a perennial contender in the Eastern Conference as GM Steve Yzerman continues to build a winning team in the Sunshine State.

Goalies often take a bit longer to develop than skaters do, and now at 29-years-old with only 217 NHL games under his belt, Bishop is entering the prime of his career with not a whole lot of mileage on his large body. After a shutout win in New Jersey, The Hockey Writers spoke to Ben Bishop about a myriad of topics, including his amazing playoff performance last spring that ended in heartbreak as well as bit of charity work he did while a member of the Ottawa Senators’ AHL affiliate.

The Hockey Writers: You guys extend your winning streak to five, and kick off this four-game road trip with a shutout; it seems the team is really starting to peak right now, is that accurate?

Ben Bishop: Obviously starting this road trip we are playing a few teams that are right behind us (in the standings), so it’s good to get off on the right foot. We played against a good team over there in New Jersey and I thought we played a solid 60 minutes; we never really gave them much.

THW: When you were a part of the Binghamton Senators in 2012, a few of you and the staff made a bus trip to Staten Island, New York to drop off items that were donated at your games for Hurricane Sandy relief. What’s your memories from that time?

BB: It was an opportunity for us to go down there and deliver some goods to a lot of people who were in need. There were four or five of us (players) that went and it was really sad to see what had happened there. It was nice to help out, even though it was just a little bit…it was a pretty emotional day. You don’t really know how bad things are until you see it firsthand. I definitely feel for those people, and glad we were able to contribute to helping out.

THW: You grew up as a kid living in St. Louis and then you had the opportunity to play with the St. Louis Blues for parts of two seasons; that had to be like a dream come true?

BB: Definitely a dream come true. You never think that stuff is going to happen and I feel pretty blessed that I had that opportunity. Being able to play in front of my friends and family, you don’t think that stuff will ever happen.

THW: You’re first NHL appearance…you come on in relief of Manny Legace at the start of the second period of a game…because he hurt himself tripping over a carpet that was on the ice for Sarah Palin who dropped the first puck that night. Weirdest circumstance ever?

BB: Yeah (laughs), it was pretty nerve-wracking obviously – your first NHL game, and it’s at home on top of that, so there’s a little extra pressure. It was kind of a, funny moment, but at the same time a really cool experience.

THW: Having interviewed Manny a few times, he must have been a great goaltending partner for a young kid like yourself, correct?

BB: He was really good to me and I was really fortunate in the St. Louis organization to play with some good ones. Manny was great. Chris Mason. Ty Conklin. They all took me under their wings; it makes it a lot easier when you have guys like that looking out for you when you’re coming up (in the NHL). It’s one of those things you don’t forget about and you try to do the same thing for others, because without those guys, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.

THW: Last year this team had a great run, you shutout the New York Rangers at home in a Game 7, something that had never been done before. Then you get hurt in the Stanley Cup Final, how frustrating was that for you?

BB: It was disappointing obviously. You don’t want that to happen, but injuries happen at all different times of the year. That’s not an excuse for why we lost, it was unfortunate, but you try to remember those memories and try to use them for the best going forward.

THW: This is season four for you now in Tampa, it seems like you’ve really found a home here; accurate?

BB: Yeah I think so. Coop (coach Jon Cooper) and I kind of both came in here together; he was here about a week or two before me. We’ve kind of come up through this organization together so far and things have been going well. I feel pretty comfortable with him and I think vice versa.

Dan Rice can be reached via Twitter: @DRdiabloTHW or via Email: drdiablo321@yahoo.com.