'It's indescribable': University of Toronto student suits up for Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO -- By day, he's a university student and the goalie for the University of Toronto's men's hockey team. By night, or at least for one night, he was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"I keep remembering little details every once in a while," Alex Bishop told CTV News Toronto. "Saying, oh, that was really cool, or that was really cool - but I think it'll definitely take a couple of days."
The morning after his NHL debut, Bishop admitted it still hadn't sunk in.
"It's not really something that you sit at home and think, 'oh, maybe I'll get to sit on an NHL bench tonight.' It just doesn't go through your head."
Bishop first heard of the potential opportunity on Friday morning through a message from his coach. The Leafs' Petr Mrázek was out with a groin injury, and the team's salary cap limitations prevented them from calling up a back-up goalie until Sunday.
Saturday morning he was on the ice, practicing with the team he's grown up idolizing.
"It was surreal for sure," Bishop said, adding that the players "were all very, very nice- like super welcoming."
As for taking shots from the professionals he usually watches on television, Bishop said it wasn't as daunting as one would think.
"As soon as you get on the ice, it's just hockey -- just different players and different shooters. I tried to just look at it that way but at the same time, try to soak it all in and say, I'm here, this is really cool."
But he admitted it was a different story when it came time to walk out onto the ice at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night as the Leafs faced the Ottawa Senators.
"Even just walking to the bench, there's fans on your left, fans on your right, the cameras are flashing, the horns are going crazy. It's something you've seen on TV, and even if you're at the game, you hear it, but to be experiencing it first hand, it's indescribable."
Bishop spent the game sitting at the end of the bench, never taking the ice. But he says that's just fine with him.
"I just don't think it really could have worked out better. I was able to be there the whole game and didn't have to go in, so, best-case scenario."
Bishop says he enjoyed everything about the night, including the chance to experience the things most fans never get to see.
"Just kind of being around the team and seeing just a little bit of what goes on behind the scenes on game day -- what they do to prepare, and then obviously having a courtside seat to an NHL game is definitely not something to complain about."
It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a life-long fan of the team, something passed down to him from his father. Bishop says the Leafs got tickets for his mom, dad, and sister to watch the game. They were also given Leaf jerseys with his name and number on the back.
Barring another series of unfortunate events for the Leafs, the former Quebec Major Junior Hockey League player will suit up again for the U of T Varsity Blues.
"We're a real, strong team," Bishop said, "I think we have a good chance to go a decent way this year, so I'm hoping we can do that."
As for what's next for Bishop: midterms. He has one on Tuesday and another on Thursday, though he admits he usually crams for midterms, so his brief NHL career didn't interrupt his studying too much.
It will be a busy week for Bishop and one he says he'll likely never forget.
"It really isn't lost on me that this is like.. an opportunity that not many people get. So I was very fortunate in being able to do this."