Ben Bishop has accrued a boatload of highlights during his impressive hockey career.
But playing for the Dallas Stars on Wednesday in the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic, in front of 85,630 fans at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, is at the top of the list.
“It was really special,” said Bishop, the former University of Maine goaltender, who made 31 saves in Dallas’ 4-2 win over Nashville.
“It was the coolest sporting event I have ever been a part of. Nothing beats that experience and to come out with a win makes everything that much better,” Bishop said.
He said the 59-degree weather was perfect and the ice was good.
“The ice got better as the game went on. The puck got a little bouncy at the end of periods, but I think that was because of the warm weather,” Bishop said.
He said it was a little windy at times, but once the players were going at him, he focused on the puck.
The crowd of 85,630 was the second largest in the history of the Winter Classics and Bishop said the fans were really loud.
“When [Alexander] Radulov scored and we took the lead [in the third period], the place went absolutely crazy. You could feel the energy,” Bishop said.
In addition to the game, there were plenty of other activities surrounding the game on the State Fair of Texas Midway. They included a ferris wheel, a mechanical bull, jugglers and a unicyclist. During television timeouts and between periods, there were races involving pigs bearing names associated with Stars players like Tyler ‘Swine’ in (Tyler Seguin), Andrew ‘Hog’ liano (Cogliano) and Joe ‘Pork’ velski (Pavelski).
Bishop said he didn’t get much sleep the night before the game in anticipation of the event, but he wasn’t nervous when they took the ice to start the game.
“If anything, I was more relaxed [than usual]. I was trying to enjoy it,” the three-time Vezina Trophy finalist said.
The Vezina Trophy is awarded to the league’s best goalie.
The 6-foot-7 Bishop had the opportunity to skate with his 19-month-old son Benjamin IV as part of a family skate before the Winter Classic. He and wife Andrea are expecting their second son in June. He had 30 family and friends on hand for the game.
The former Hockey East All-Rookie and second-team all-league selection is having another solid year with a 14-9-3 record behind a 2.33 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. Bishop is three games away from reaching 400 for his career during which he owns a 215-121-35 record, a 2.30 GAA and .921 save percentage.
The Stars, who are third in the Central Division, took a 23-14-4 record into Friday night’s game with Detroit.
“I think I’ve had a pretty solid season except for one hiccup in Florida,” the 33-year-old Bishop said, referring to his six goals allowed on 20 shots in a 7-4 loss to the Florida Panthers on Dec. 20.
It has been an interesting year for the Stars because former UMaine All-American and Hobey Baker Award finalist Jim Montgomery, the team’s second-year coach, was fired as the head coach on Dec. 10 for what was termed “unprofessional conduct.”
Montgomery, who was set to enter an inpatient residential program for alcohol abuse on Friday, was replaced by assistant and former NHL head coach Rick Bowness.
“It’s unfortunate for Monty. He was a good coach. Hopefully, he can land back on his feet [and coach again],” said Bishop, who added that Bowness has done an excellent job.
“He is such a genuine human being and is respected by everybody in the league,” Bishop said. “You want to play for him.”