“Can you imagine what it must be like to get that call?”
That’s how T.J, Brodie summed up the peculiar circumstances surrounding Alex Bishop over the past 24 hours to reporters Saturday morning, shortly after it was announced that the 24-year-old University of Toronto student would be the Maple Leafs’ backup goaltender that night against the Ottawa Senators.
This call-up could not come at a worse time for Bishop, either.
As the temperatures begin to cool and the calendar flips deeper into October, U of T students are typically neck-deep in a pile of mid-terms and term papers at this point in the academic year, surviving solely off of pure caffeine and food from the famous brown truck parked outside of Sydney Smyth Hall on St. George Street.
Bishop, thanks to an injured Petr Mrazek and an inconclusive PCR test from Justin Holl, will now be forced to sacrifice a precious night of studying in order to serve as Jack Campbell’s understudy in the latest installment of the Battle of Ontario.
For his hometown team. On Hockey Night in Canada. Oh, and then there’s fact that Bishop hasn’t played in an organized hockey game since February 16th, 2020.
No pressure, kid.
And knowing U of T, that excuse won’t absolve him of any missed assignments, either.
Given how Bishop is now one ill-timed tweak away from the Leafs’ starting job (at least for one night), it might be a good idea to learn a little bit more about Saturday’s star attraction.
When it comes to the rapid movement of high-level hockey, Bishop is well acquainted.
The Richmond Hill-native capped off a whirlwind QMJHL career that spanned from 2014-2017 by playing his final year with three different teams, moving from the Saint John Sea Dogs to the Quebec Rempart to the Val d’Or Foreurs all in a matter of two months. After leaving the CHL and splitting his 2017-18 season between the OJHL and MHL (Maritime Hockey League), Bishop ultimately opted to embark upon his post-Junior career and enrolled in the University of Toronto’s commerce program in 2018.
That new chapter has gone well thus far.
Through two seasons with the Varsity Blues, Bishop has emerged as the program’s top goaltender. His freshman year consisted of an impressive .917 save percentage across 22 regular-season games, with Bishop earning the starting nod for both of U of T’s playoff matches that year, too.
Bishop followed that rookie showing up with an even better sophomore campaign the next season, holding down a .922 save percentage in 24 games while leading the OUA with 19 wins and being named a second-team OUA All-Star.
As far as U-Sports goalies go, Bishop is one of the best.
And yet, still not much is known about the Leafs’ newest addition.
Bishop lists Marc-Andre Fleury as his favourite player in his profile on the Varsity Blues’ website. He’s a big Will Ferrell fan, proclaiming the comedian as his favourite actor of all time, and the comedy classic “Anchorman” as his favourite film.
Bishop loves The Office, likely marathoning it between study sessions the way most students his age do in the wee hours of the morning. Country is his go-to music genre. His favourite food is chicken parm.
One look at Bishop’s interests offers a brief glimpse into who he is, along with a stark reminder that, despite his presence on an NHL bench tonight, this is still just a normal university student with normal university student interests.
The only difference is most university students don’t have a stall with their name on it in Scotiabank Arena.
Bishop will almost certainly finish the amateur tryout he’s signed to with zero minutes of ice time and one incredible story to tell his future grandchildren. That’s what the Leafs are hoping, at least. But if he doesn’t, and there are more chapters to this story, Bishop’s time as a relative unknown will undoubtedly be over.
You’ll have to watch Saturday night to find out.