By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – We’re not sure what kind of chess player Timmins Rock general manager Kevin Peever is, but he has acquired a Bishop from the Atlanta Jr. Knights, of the USPHL.
Brendan Bishop has tended goal for the Jr. Knights for the past two seasons and he is looking forward to concluding his Junior ‘A’ career in the NOJHL this season.
Bishop joins returning netminder Jeff Veitch in the battle for crease time with the Rock.
Peever, himself a former goalie with the CCHL Brockville Braves, is excited about the arrival of Bishop.
“I am confident Brendan is going to be able to come in and compete for our No. 1 job,” he said.
“He has proven himself the last two years with Atlanta in the USPHL. At almost 6-3, he is a large goalie he covers a lot of the net.”
Bishop’s statistics with the Jr. Knights the past two seasons (33, 3.51, .889, 2016-17; 11, 3.42, .887) were nearly identical.
Those are similar statistics to those posted by last year’s starter, Albert Rogers, before he was acquired in a mid-season trade from the French River Rapids.
“The league he is coming from is an excellent league,” Peever said.
“With the new defensive structure our coach, Corey Beer, is going to be bringing with him to Timmins, we are confident his numbers will be even better in a Rock uniform this coming season.
“With his big frame and Corey’s new system I am confident he is going to be very successful with our team.”
Peever has had an opportunity to review video of Bishop in action and likes what he has seen so far.
“I think he is going to be able to come in and be an impact player for us right away,” he said.
“He has a solid work ethic and he is pretty athletic for a big guy. He comes out well to challenge the shooter and cut down the angles.”
Bishop lives in Charlotte, N.C., but he was born in Grand Falls-Windsor, Nfld., and does not count as one of six import players the Rock can have on their roster.
While he is officially listed at 6-2 and 190 pounds, Bishop feels he doesn’t fit the typical stereotype of a large netminder.
“I kind of break the mold of your typical goalie,” he said.
“I don’t really play like a normal goalie who is almost 6-3. I play more of an athletic style. I make the easy saves, but I also make some of the acrobatic saves like a Marc-André Fleury every now and then.”
It isn’t really the Pittsburgh Penguins puck stopper that he patterns his game after, however.
“I have been a Carey Price fan since I was probably in the fourth grade when the Canadiens drafted him,” he said.
“I am a bit of a hockey nerd, though, and when I was growing up you could find me watching YouTube videos of any goalie I could find.”
Being an avid Montreal Canadiens fan, it is only natural for Bishop to be a big Price fan.
The 20 year old does know a little bit about the NOJHL.
“One of my buddies (Kyle Moore) from down here played for Powassan and when I told him I was going to sign in Timmins the first thing he said was ‘that’s the best place you could have signed. They have the best fans in the league and it’s a well-run organization.’
“That’s something that’s really exciting for me. This past season in Atlanta we would get maybe 50 fans a game. It’s hard to get super excited sometimes when attendance is like that. From what I hear about Timmins, it’s just a real passionate hockey community.
“That will be a breath of fresh air for me because I have grown up playing in non-traditional hockey markets.”
After watching some video of the Rock disposing of the Cochrane Crunch in the first round of this year’s playoffs, Bishop is looking forward to getting a chance to pull his No. 20 Timmins Rock jersey over his head.
“That video pans around the arena showing the fans going nuts,” he said.
“That’s really what made me decide I wanted to sign with the Rock.”
There have been some NHL goalies who have worn No. 20 in the past, but Bishop wears the number for a much more personal reason.
“I had an older brother (Steven Russell) who was about 11 years older than me,” he said.
“He played ‘AAA’ hockey when we were living in Alberta (Grande Prairie). He was a goalie, as well, and played a little bit of Junior ‘A’ there.
“When we moved down here, he ended up going to school at North Carolina State University. He played hockey there and he wore No. 20.
“Unfortunately, right before his senior year, over the summer, he took a puck to the neck in practice during a summer skate.
“He didn’t notice, but it cause a blood clot and he was swimming a few days later and his heart stopped and he passed away right there.”
Bishop still gets emotional talking about the death of his brother.
He will once again be spending the summer in Ottawa, working out at the Capitol Strength gym.
“There are a lot of OHL and NHL players who train there,” he said.
“I will be looking to get bigger and more flexible, stuff that will help my game.”
He will again be working out on the ice with Ottawa 67s goalie coach Paul Schonfelder this summer.
“He works to refine my game a little bit and making sure I stay sharp,” Bishop said.
“Charlotte is a growing hockey town, but it is not the same calibre as Ottawa.”
Bishop has spent his spare time looking up information on Timmins.
“I haven’t lived in Canada during the winter for quite a while, so I was looking up the temperature on Wikapedia,” he said.
“I don’t have very many winter clothes, so I am going to have to go shopping a little bit before I get up there.
“My birthday was about a month ago and my grandmother knew I was going to be playing in Timmins and she got me a plug-in heated blanket so I can survive up there.”