TORONTO (AP)University of Toronto goaltender Alex Bishop dressed as the backup to Maple Leafs starter Jack Campbell for Saturday night’s 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators, living out his dream without getting off the bench for the game.
”That was pretty surreal,” Bishop said of stepping on the ice for warmups at Scotiabank Arena. ”You never really look at the flash of the cameras until you get out there. It was really cool.”
It was an unusual situation for the salary cap-squeezed Maple Leafs, who are without injured goalie Petr Mrazek and also had defenseman Justin Holl out with an illness. Toronto could have demoted a player to the American Hockey League and recalled goaltender Michael Hutchinson as the No. 2 behind Campbell – if Holl was healthy.
The organization could have also sent someone down, brought up Hutchinson, and played with 17 skaters. But it signed Bishop to a one-day amateur tryout and hoped Campbell would get through the evening unscathed.
”There’s a lot of things that, to be honest, aren’t my department,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said before the game. ”But really it just comes down to the fact that the flat (salary) cap has created some situations here that are a lot more difficult to manage even than they were a year ago when they had the taxi squad and a third goalie. We’re going through that here now.”
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Bishop has spent two seasons playing for the university but has not played in a game since Feb. 16, 2020, before the pandemic. The commerce major has two midterm exams next week.
”It’s not lost on me that this is a pretty rare opportunity,” said Bishop, a 24-year-old with three seasons of Quebec Major Junior Hockey League experience. ”Not a lot of people, if any, get to do things like this. I’m pretty lucky.”
Mrazek is expected to be out two weeks with the injury he suffered in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Senators. But Keefe said Toronto will now be able to recall Hutchinson, who’s expected to be at practice Sunday.
”That’s the situation,” Keefe said of having to use Bishop. ”A lot of teams have already gone through it last season and I suspect a lot more will this season with the rules going back to normal and not necessarily having the COVID exemptions.”
The Maple Leafs were the opponent when two Carolina goalies, including Mrazek, were injured in Toronto on Feb. 22, 2020, forcing emergency backup David Ayres into action. The then-42-year-old Zamboni driver allowed goals on the Leafs’ first two shots that memorable night, but stopped the next eight in a stunning 6-3 Hurricanes’ victory.
Bishop had his parents in the crowd – dad is a big Leafs fan – and was inundated with texts Saturday afternoon before having to silence his phone.
”I’m still kind of soaking it in,” he said after the game.