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Alex Bishop and his Wild, Unprecedented Night

Alex Bishop has a mid-term on Tuesday. And another one Thursday, too. Such is life as an emergency backup. In one fell swoop, Bishop went from being a university student to an unlikely NHLer.
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Alex Bishop has a mid-term on Tuesday. And another one Thursday, too. 

It's unlikely he expected to be telling reporters about them after dressing for his hometown Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada when he started the semester, though. 

Such is life as an emergency backup. 

Bishop was thrust into action with the Leafs on Saturday night thanks in equal part to a Petr Mrazek injury and the harsh reality of the NHL salary cap. In one fell swoop, Bishop went from being a university student to a practice participant, to ultimately a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs in a matter of hours. 

Life doesn't come faster than that. 

"I just started the morning at the morning skate and it kind of snowballed from there," Bishop said, recounting how a whirlwind morning ended with him sitting on an NHL bench. 

The rollercoaster didn't stop when he left the rink, either. Messages began pouring in at such a rate that Bishop eventually had to turn off his phone, opting instead to study for his upcoming commerce exam as a means of calming himself down once he realized that a pre-game nap was not an option. 

For a university student to view an upcoming mid-term as a source of stress relief is almost unheard of. And yet, Bishop's circumstances certainly called for it. 

These are unprecedented details from an unprecedented event, after all. 

No NHL team had ever been forced to sign a goaltender to an amateur tryout and then dress them as their backup that same night thanks to lack of cap space for an emergency recall before. Bishop's wild weekend is truly one-of-a-kind, although his new teammates made an effort not to treat it as such. 

"Everyone's super nice," explained Bishop in a tone of positivity that emulated the man he was understudying for. 

"They just didn't treat me any differently. Everyone came and gave me daps and talked to me on the bench when they weren't really focused on the play, so it was good." 

Perhaps even more surprising is that Bishop's brush with NHL stardom could have happened far sooner if fate had its say.

Most NHL teams carry multiple potential EBUGs at their disposal throughout the season as a means of insurance, rotating each of them in game-by-game based on a schedule. Bishop was a member of that rotation for the Leafs during the 2019-20 season. The same season, as some may recall, that happened to feature one of the most unique events in modern NHL history, when Toronto Marlies Zamboni driver David Ayres strapped on the pads for the Carolina Hurricanes after both goaltenders exited due to injury and wound up stopping eight of his employer's 10 shots to lead the Hurricanes to victory and emerge as a worldwide celebrity in the process. 

Ayres was in the building that night simply because it was his turn on the schedule to do so. It was pure happenstance. A fluke. And who was on the schedule for the next game? Well, that would be Bishop, of course. 

It's funny how things work out. 

Bishop did, in fact, watch the Ayers game. As a self-described Leafs fan, he was likely fuming over the result along with the rest of the beleaguered supporters, too. But Bishop nonetheless relished his opportunity on Saturday night to leave a good taste in the fanbase's mouth when it came to emergency backups. 

If he was to be called upon, he'd be ready. 

Bishop is not new to high-level hockey, after all. He's an accomplished Junior-level goaltender, having spent three years in the QMJHL during which he helped lead the Saint John Sea Dogs to a postseason appearance in 2016. He's been in big moments before. 

Frankly, Bishop is not so much a fish out of water as he was just dropped into a bigger pond. A much bigger pond. And that fact seemed to dawn on him right as he stepped onto the ice for warm-ups. 

"You never really notice the flash of the cameras until you get out there", the 24-year-old remarked, his eyes as big as the pucks that were just one Jack Campbell injury away from coming at him tonight. 

"And it's pretty distracting. But it was cool"

What Bishop sounded like in the immediate aftermath of his big-league debut was someone acutely aware of the sheer improbability of his situation. Aware of just how unique it is to get called upon by your hometown team in their time of need. Aware of how few of his peers even come close to entering an NHL building, let alone have a stall with their name on it. 

This is not something that Bishop will ever forget, And how could he? 

"This is a pretty rare opportunity and not a lot of people get to experience moments like this," said Bishop. 

"I'm just, I'm really lucky. I'm lucky to be cheering for my hometown team" 

As for what awaits for him tomorrow? It's a harsh step back to reality for the third-year commerce student. 

"Study day,". laughed Bishop. 

"That'll be a lot of fun"

Let's just hope the University of Toronto will accept a note from the Leafs to excuse any potential absences. 

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