Sometimes you never know what you want until you have it.
Take Ben Bishop, for example. The LA Kings' newest netminder has been playing in the National Hockey League for the last 10 years, has a NHL All Star Game appearance to his credit, and was also named to the NHL Second All Star Team in 2016. Interestingly enough, by the time Bishop was a senior in high school, playing in the NHL wasn't even a dream of his.
Born in Denver, Colorado, Bishop moved to St. Louis, Missouri with his family at the age of one. Bishop began playing hockey when he was four years old, and originally started out as a forward. It wasn't until a few years into playing that he became a goalie after the team goaltender rotation revealed that he was the only one who enjoyed the position enough to play an entire game in net. Growing up in St. Louis, he cheered for the Blues, and was a fan of players like Curtis Joseph, Brendan Shanahan, and Brett Hull.
During his senior year of high school, Bishop moved to Dallas, Texas to play Junior hockey, and it was here that he learned that he had a real shot at making it to the NHL.
"I really had no ambitions to play in the NHL or anything like that. Coming from St. Louis it wasn't really a goal of mine, but I grew with it, I loved the game, and as I got a little bit older I was following the steps and it all kind of just happened," Bishop chronicles. "I definitely started out just for fun and enjoying it, and as I got a little older it turned into something."
One practice, a coach approached the goaltender to notify him he was on the NHL Central Scouting Rankings, a list of the top prospects for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. At the time, Bishop had no idea what that meant. In a matter of months, he moved out of state to play Juniors, which he knew little about, to learning he could be drafted into the NHL. Things snowballed, colleges showed interest in Bishop, and he ultimately committed to the University of Maine, where he played three seasons and collected numerous accolades, including two selections to the NCAA All Regional team.
In 2005, Bishop was selected 85th overall in the NHL Entry Draft by none other than the St. Louis Blues.
"It was exciting and obviously when I found out it was St. Louis it was really cool," shares the 30-year-old Bishop. "It was a dream come true, having the chance to play for your hometown team. I was honored to be able to do that, but that was then and now I'm really happy to be out here."
Bishop played three years in the Blues organization, going back-and-forth between the minors before being traded to the Ottawa Senators, where he got his big break.
"It's tough for a goalie, there's only 60 spots in the whole world to be an NHL goalie," Bishop admits. "You kind of have to get your break and I got my break in Ottawa when [starting goalie] Craig Anderson got hurt. When you're young and you want to make it, you have to stay in the minors and keep working, then when you get that chance try to take advantage of it and luckily I was able to do that. Grinding it out up and down in the minors those first three years was tough, but it was well worth it when you look back on it."
After spending a little over a year in Ottawa, Bishop was dealt at the trade deadline in 2013 to the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he became an NHL mainstay, and earned an All Star Game nod in 2016. He was acquired by the Kings last month on February 26, just three days before the trade deadline.
Walking into the Kings dressing room for the first time wasn't entirely strange for Bishop, as he had gotten to know fellow goaltender, Jonathan Quick, while both played for Team USA at the World Cup Tournament last fall. He's also played with Matt Greene at the World Championships and met Drew Doughty and head coach Darryl Sutter at last year's All Star Game.
"It's a small hockey world so you kind of know people through people. It's funny, when you walk in the first day you don't really know anybody, but by the end of the week you feel like you've known everybody for a long time. That's the cool thing about the hockey world. It's a great group of guys and I'm excited to be a part of it."
As far as sharing a net with Quick, who is one year his senior, Bishop is optimistic about the foreseeable future.
"I think we got to know each other at the World Cup, we're both competitors, we've both played in this League for a bit and want to win. We just want to win - whoever is in net I think we're rooting for each other," says Bishop about Quick. "We have the same goal and we want to win - that's kind of the main focus and knowing him before it kind of makes it a little easier coming in here, he's a great guy and a good teammate, so it should be good. Hopefully we can learn from each other and make each other better."
While Bishop may not have had big plans to play in the NHL as a kid, the professional athlete lineage actually comes from his grandfather, who was a professional tennis player and competed at the US Open. That same grandfather also began the naming trend within the family, as he was Ben Bishop Senior, his son is Ben Bishop Junior, and the Kings' new netminder is Ben Bishop III.
"I'm honored to have the name, my dad and grandpa are great people, so hopefully I'll be able to pass it on," Bishop states.
Bishop and his fiancée, Andrea, will be starting their new family together this summer as the two have plans to wed in Tampa Bay where they met. They have no pets as of yet, but are hopeful that a dog is in their future. Their summers are spent in St. Louis where Bishop's family still resides, including Ben's two older sisters and younger brother.
A big sports fan, Bishop loves golf and baseball, and his team is, not surprisingly, the St. Louis Cardinals. A Dodgers game is on his short list of things he's looking forward to in LA, but the Manhattan Beach area is what he's fallen in love with so far. Bishop plays cards while on the plane, so he doesn't have too much time for television, although he does concede that he's a fan of 'Game of Thrones.' The 6-foot-7 'Bish,' as he is affectionately known, can often be found in the kitchen, as he loves to cook.
"Nothing crazy, really, just enjoy the process and it kind of keeps you busy during the season when you have some time," admits Bishop, who also enjoys going out and trying new foods.
He has plenty of new things to try, being in a new city, and the hope is that he and the Kings can generate a deep playoff run that will afford him more time to explore.
"These guys can be very dangerous when they get in the playoffs and to be a part of it with a team that has the experience that they do, you really can't ask for a better situation with having Quickie and I," Bishop declares. "It's going to solidify the back end and I'm just looking forward to going on a run here."
Bishop may have been surprised when he found out he was headed to the NHL, but he has certainly taken advantage of all his opportunities thus far. The only difference now is that Bishop is a King.