NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features Dallas Stars goalie Ben Bishop.
FRISCO, Texas -- When Ben Bishop signed with the Dallas Stars on May 12, 2017, he never thought he would play in an NHL outdoor game, let alone the New Year's Day showcase known as the Winter Classic.
Hockey outdoors? In Texas?
But there he'll be in goal against the Nashville Predators at Cotton Bowl Stadium in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Wednesday (2 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS), playing before more than 80,000 fans, the second-largest crowd in NHL history.
"They were talking last year about getting an outdoor game," Bishop said. "I was just kind of excited about getting an outdoor game. And then when we found out it was the Winter Classic, it was something really neat."
Especially because of a bit of Bishop's background.
He played for Texas of the North American Hockey League in 2004-05, as a senior at Frisco High School. His team had an outing to the State Fair of Texas, which takes place each year next to Cotton Bowl Stadium.
Video: Check out the wild numbers behind the Winter Classic
This event will pay homage to the State Fair. The Midway will be open as part of the Truly Hard Seltzer NHL PreGame. The boots belonging to Big Tex, the famous 55-foot talking cowboy who welcomes visitors to the fair, will sit alongside the rink with a rodeo clown and a longhorn steer. The second intermission will feature a rodeo clown, sword swallower and fire breather, plus trick roping, horse riding and more.
The game also comes at an interesting time for Bishop and the Stars. Bishop, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy for the third time last year, is having another strong season; he is 13-9-3 with a 2.34 goals-against average, a .926 save percentage and one shutout.
The Stars replaced coach Jim Montgomery with assistant Rick Bowness on Dec. 10 and are 22-14-4, third in the Central Division. The Predators, whom they defeated in six games in the Western Conference First Round last year, are sixth in the Central, six points behind.
Here are Five Questions with … Ben Bishop:
What do you remember about attending the State Fair of Texas?
"I don't remember riding the Ferris wheel. I just remember playing some of the games and eating the food and seeing some of the pigs and the farm animals. It's kind of like any other type of carnival that you go to, but obviously on a bigger scale. They have all the livestock and the pigs and all the animals. Yeah, it was a fun time."
You have Big Tex in a Dallas Stars Winter Classic jersey and the Ferris wheel on your mask, and you have some special gear for the game. How did you design it?
"I worked with Bauer. I had a couple ideas, but then they came out with a new pad. They kind of wanted me to be one of the first guys to wear it in the League. So [we] kind of worked with the new design they had and kind of went with the old-school look. It's fun watching the guys in the Winter Classic in these special games who kind of get to wear that old gear. To have an opportunity to do it yourself and try to make it look a little more vintage is pretty neat. Got the dark tan and some green in there. Kind of the old leather look."
How has the team adjusted to the coaching change?
"Obviously it was shocking news to all of us when it happened. But Rick Bowness is a guy who has been around the League longer than anybody as far as coaching, so we knew we were in really good hands. He's the type of guy that has respect from every single player in this league. … [Bowness] has done a great job. Very passionate coach. Cares about all the players. You can tell that, and guys want to play for him. He's that type of coach that you want to go out there and work hard for, because you know he's got your back and you know he cares so much. It's been a pretty seamless transition so far."
Video: NJD@DAL: Bishop earns first shutout of the season
What has been the key to your season and excelling at age 33?
"I feel good. It's kind of one of those weird things. I feel like I'm getting better as I'm getting older. Things are clicking. Obviously, we have a great coaching staff and a good group in front of us. Things are going well. One hiccup in [a 7-4 loss at the Florida Panthers on Dec. 20], but other than that, it's been pretty consistent season, and I just want to take it game by game. It's kind of the way I've always approached it. Just got to find ways to win."
How do you balance the importance of a regular-season game and the spectacle of the Winter Classic?
"I don't know if it always works out that way, but this is a key game. Obviously we're ahead of them in the standings, and you don't want to let those teams underneath you beat you. That's kind of the main way to climb back up the standings. … Personally, I'll probably take a little more time maybe to look up and kind of check out the crowd and maybe enjoy the intro and all that. But I think once the puck drops, the switch will flip, and you'll kind of just be focused on the game. Hopefully we go out there and play our game, and it should be a good game, because normally when we play these guys, it's pretty competitive."