Last month we caught up with Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Ben Bishop at the 2014 NHL Awards to discuss childhood hockey heroes, current goalie mentors, and playing for head coach Jon Cooper and GM Steve Yzerman. These are his stories.
Q: At 6'7" you're one of the tallest players in the NHL. Talk about the advantages of being tall and playing goalie in the NHL.
A: I like to think my height is an advantage because I take up more net. But I've been tall my whole life, so I don't really know anything different. I try to think of my height as an advantage with no disadvantages.
Q: What sports did you play as a kid and how did you end up focusing on hockey?
A: I played every sport growing up. I played basketball, football, soccer, baseball, tennis, everything. It just came down to liking hockey the most. I have no idea why. It didn't run in the family. My dad didn't play. I just kind of stuck with it and enjoyed it. And it worked out.
Q: Who were your hockey heroes growing up?
A: Being from St. Louis, I loved Curtis Joseph. He was the man. Brendan Shanahan and Brett Hull, those guys too. They were definitely who I loved to watch growing up.
Q: Who are the current goalies in the league that you look up to (or down to)?
A: Obviously you look up to guys like [Martin] Brodeur and [Roberto] Luongo. Guys that have been around for a long time and had a lot of success. You watch them and hope your career can last as long as theirs ... or even half as long as theirs. You look at guys like that with long careers and you admire that.
Q: Are you excited to have Roberto Luongo in Florida next year?
A: Yeah, it's going to be different next year. We play against them [Florida Panthers] quite a bit. We usually have our home opener against them and we will this year. It'll be a little bit of a different look with him down there next year instead of [Tim] Thomas and [Jacob] Markstrom last year. It'll be fun to see him.
Q: Different personalities, Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo.
A: Yeah, exactly. I've never met Luongo or even played against him, so it'll be fun to get to go against him this year.
Q: Talk about head coach Jon Cooper and what he brings to your team?
A: He's a very smart guy. He's a lawyer. Intelligent. He's relaxed. He doesn't get too uptight. He's good with the young guys. He started out at the bottom. I used to play against him in Juniors, so it's fun to see someone who work their way up. He's a good guy. He's there for a reason. He's been successful in every league he's coached in. I think he's won every championship. He knows what he's doing and hopefully we can win a championship in this league.
Q: What does it mean when they say he's a player's coach?
A: I think in the league now there's more and more of that. He can talk to you. If you sit down and have a conversation with him you're not going to be worried about what you say around him, or be worried when he walks in the room. He doesn't want to be one of the guys, but he can easily fit in. He can be very personable and have a conversation with them. The guys like that.
Q: Talk about putting up these incredible regular season numbers, earning a Vezina nomination and not being healthy to skate in the playoffs?
A: It was almost like this season was incomplete. To get there and a week before it starts to have that injury ... it wasn't fun. You work all year to get there and then you can't play. It stinks. But I'll use that as motivation for next year and hopefully get back and be able help the team out at that time of year.
Q: Talk about your relationship with goalie partner Anders Lindback?
A: He's a great guy. One of the nicest guys that I've ever met. And he's a great goalie partner. Nothing but good things to say about him. Anyone that's met him knows that he's a great guy, very caring. He's a good goalie. Hopefully he gets a chance wherever he is next year. I know he'll do well wherever he is.
Q: What's GM Steve Yzerman's level of interaction with the players on the team? Is he in the dressing room on a daily basis?
A: He kind of stands in the background. He won't be in the dressing room unless it's a very important game or something. He's a good guy. He's been around for a longtime and he's been in almost every situation you can think of. He's a good guy to talk to. He's the type of guy you can go in his office, ask him a question and he'll give you an answer. So he's really helpful for our players.
Q: Was he a Norris Division nemesis of yours growing up?
A: Yeah, he crushed my dreams a few times when he used to beat the Blues every year. It's different now that he's my boss, but he's a great guy.
Q: Tell me about the legend of John Tortorella in Tampa Bay?
A: I've only been there for a year. But I know that I went to Maine and he went to Maine, so he's obviously got to be a good guy.
Q: What do you do in the off-season? Where do you live?
A: I've been in Tampa until last week doing rehab on my wrist. I had surgery a couple of months ago. Now I'm back in St. Louis for the next couple of months and hopefully be ready for training camp.
Q: Who do you train with in the summer?
A: There's a few guys in St. Louis. The hockey market there is starting to get a lot bigger. Chris Wideman, a guy who plays in the Ottawa [Senators] system, and a couple of other guys that play in the league.
Q: Do you skate with other goalies?
A: I won't start skating until August. Mike McKenna, and then the Blues goalies will come back. We have a pretty good skate in St. Louis.
Q: Who's the goalie coach in Tampa?
A: Frantz Jean.
Q: Is it difficult to adjust to a new goalie coach when you join a new team?
A: Yeah. But at this level, once you're here, you're here for a reason. It's more about having someone in your corner to pick you up when you're down. He's a great guy and we had a good year together. Everything works well.
Many thanks to Ben for speaking with us. Best of luck next season.