Goaltender Alex Bishop relishes ‘surreal’ opportunity with Maple Leafs

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On Friday nights, Alex Bishop studied mid-term at the University of Toronto, where he is a commerce major and nets for his hockey team, the Varsity Blues.

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Twenty-four hours later he was seated at the end of the Maple Leafs bench at the Scotiabank Arena as insurance in case Toronto goalkeeper Jack Campbell was injured.

“It was very wicked,” said the bishop.

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Earlier on Saturday, the 24-year-old signed an amateur-tryout contract with the team to serve as his emergency backup at the crease. Lacking a pay-cap, the Maple Leafs were unable to immediately call anyone from the AHL Marlize when Petr Marzek walked down with a torn groin muscle in Ottawa on Thursday.

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Bishop was not called to play in Toronto’s comeback engagement with the Senators at the Scotiabank Arena on Saturday, but enjoyed his Walter Mitty moment.

“It’s not lost on me that this is a rare opportunity,” he later said. “I realized that I am very lucky.”

Campbell made 20 saves and three different players scored in a 3–1 victory as the Maple Leafs ended the first week of the regular season with two wins in three games.

Bishop was at the rink for Morning Skate to take a shot at Austin Matthews, but had no idea what the day was going to be like. He is one of several amateur goalkeepers the team keeps in case of emergency and Saturday was just his day in the rotation.

“I started to skate in the morning, and things just snowballed from there,” Bishop said.

The Varsity Blues’ season was canceled last year due to COVID-19, so they haven’t even played a game at the college level since 2020. Prior to this, he played for three seasons with the St. John’s Sea Dogs. QMJHL.

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Bishop grew up in nearby Markham and has always been a fan of the Maple Leafs. It was a thrill to go ice skating with him and take a few shots during the pregame warmup.

“It was so surreal,” Bishop said. “You don’t really notice the cameras flash until you’re out there. It’s very distracting, but it was good.”

The last time an emergency backup goalkeeper was used in the NHL was on February 22, 2020, when David Ayres entered a game in Toronto when Marazque and Carolina’s other goalkeeper, James Reimer, each suffered injuries. Ayres played nearly half the game and recorded seven saves in a 6–3 loss to the Maple Leafs. This was an embarrassment for the Toronto outfit as Ayres was the Leafs’ emergency backup at this time and had previously driven the Zamboni to Marleys games.

Each NHL home team must provide an emergency netminder that can be deployed by any team in a pinch.

Bishop was the next person in the rotation after Ayres.

“I was late one day,” he said. “That could have been me.”

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Down the road, Saturday’s game will mostly be memorable only for Bishop. Wayne Simmonds, Alex Kerfoot and Michael Bunting scored one goal each, defensemen Travis Dermott, Timothy Lilzegren and Rasmus Sandin each had an assist and newcomer David Kampf went 10–3 in the faceoff.

What is remarkable after three games is that the Maple Leafs have been able to win twice without Matthews, who is still recovering from wrist surgery, and has yet to score a goal from either Mitch Marner or John Tavares. Campbell has closed 61 of 63 shots and will start on Monday night when the New York Rangers tour.

The goal was the first of the season for Simmonds and Kerfoot and the Maple Leaf first for 26-year-old Bunting, who grew up in the East Toronto suburb of Scarborough, as Simmonds.

“This is definitely a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life,” Bunting said.

Matthews is expected to play against Rangers for the first time this season, and Michael Hutchinson was recalled from the AHL on Saturday to fill in behind Campbell. Marzek is expected to be out for two weeks.

Meanwhile, Bishop will return to study for the mid-term exams on Tuesday and Thursday.

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“The first period I was nervous,” Bishop said. “In another, it started getting easier. In the third, I soaked everything. “

At noon, she had to turn off her phone because so many people were excited for her.

“People I haven’t heard from in five or six years were sending me messages,” Bishop said.

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