When the Dallas Stars acquired the rights to goaltender Ben Bishop from the Los Angeles Kings in early May and then quickly signed him to a six-year, $29.5 million contract, it marked a return of sorts for the veteran netminder.
That’s because Bishop, 30, who has also played for St. Louis, Ottawa and Tampa Bay in the NHL before most recently manning the crease in LA, is a graduate of Frisco High School who also played for the now-defunct Texas Tornado, the North American Hockey League (NAHL) team that used to call Dr Pepper Arena home.
Understandably, he’s happy to return to somewhere he knows so well.
It’s exciting. It’s nice to be back. A lot has changed in 12 years, but it’s exciting. We (my family and I) are looking forward to making this home for a long time,” Bishop said at his introductory press conference in early summer.
Bishop was born in Denver and lived in St. Louis before coming to Frisco, graduating from high school and playing in the NAHL before heading to the University of Maine to play for the Black Bears.
With the Tornado, Bishop’s strong play in net was a big reason Texas won a second consecutive national championship and the Gold Cup, awarded to the best Junior-A hockey team in North America.
And as they say, the rest was history. Bishop, who was named to the 2005 NAHL All-Rookie Team, was drafted by St. Louis in the third round of the 2005 NHL Draft.
Focused solely on playing for Maine, Bishop didn’t sign with the Blues until 2008 and made his NHL debut that October. “Big Ben,” as he is known for being 6-7, making him the tallest goaltender in NHL history, has since built a reputation as one of the league’s top goalies.
And even though it’s been some time since he played in Frisco, he still has fond memories of his days between the pipes for the Tornado.
I think I was 18-years-old coming in and I had no idea that I would have been a professional hockey player,” Bishop admitted. “Didn’t know I’d be a starting goalie or anything like that. We had a good team. I ended up getting drafted, going to Maine and so on and so forth. But coming down here, I had no idea I’d be a Dallas Star twelve years later, but it’s exciting. I’m glad it all worked out.”
Bishop said he still has a few friends remaining in Frisco and he looks forward to seeing them again.
Excited to go back up there. I’ve heard it’s changed quite a bit and it’s growing,” he said. “When I was here, that’s where the tollway ended. It’ll be fun to go up there, see the area up there and kind of explore.”
Jim Nill, the Stars’ general manager since May 2013, was ecstatic to acquire the rights to a No. 1 goaltender like Bishop this offseason, a move which was the first of what has been a very productive summer for the Stars, who are now considered a Stanley Cup contender in the Western Conference.
We knew there was going to be two or three guys (goaltenders) that were free agents (this summer),” Nill said. “We knew that Ben Bishop was possibly going to be one of those guys and when we knew we had a chance to get him, we were excited about that and were able to make the move. A big part of that was also that he wanted to come play in Dallas, so it was good fit for both parties.”
Bishop has been an NHL All-Star once, in 2016, and is considered an elite NHL goalie. However, there is one thing which eludes him-a Stanley Cup. Bishop has played in the Stanley Cup Finals once, with Tampa Bay in 2005 as the Lightning lost in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks.
But with the Stars improving defensively and bolstering an already talented roster this summer, Bishop feels he’s in a great spot to get another crack at hoisting Lord Stanley’s Bowl in the future.
I feel really confident. Every year, you learn a little bit more. Definitely comfortable where the game’s at, where I am in life and everything,” Bishop said.
The Dallas Stars’ season is underway. Team practices that take place at the Dr Pepper StarCenter in Frisco are open to the public.