Recently acquired Dallas Stars goaltender Ben Bishop arrived in town this week to start looking for a place to live. And Friday Stars GM Jim Nill showed him around the team's facilities at American Airlines Center.
The Dallas area isn't unfamiliar territory to Bishop, who spent the 2004-05 season in Frisco playing for the Texas Tornado of the North American Hockey League.
"It's nice to be back," said Bishop, who graduated from Frisco High School. "A lot has changed in 12 years, but it is exciting. We are looking forward to making this home for a long time. We're starting the search now for a place to call home."
It's been a long journey from that time with the Texas Tornado to now being a Dallas Star. A career in pro hockey wasn't top of mind back in 2004-2005 when Bishop joined the Tornado.
"I was 18-years-old and had no idea I would have been a professional hockey player," Bishop said. "I was just trying to make the team."
He put up some impressive numbers in the NAHL and ended up ranked for the 2005 Draft by NHL Central Scouting (sixth among North American goaltenders).
"A month into the season [Texas Tornado coach] Tony Curtale told me I was on Central Scouting," Bishop said. "I didn't know what it was."
The St. Louis Blues selected Bishop in the third round (85th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, and the rest is history. He played three years at the University of Maine and made his NHL debut with the Blues in October 2008. He's gone on to play 270 NHL games with the Blues, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Los Angeles. Twice he's been a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender in the NHL.
And that's why he's been on Nill's radar for the past year. Nill started talks about Bishop with Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman at last year's NHL draft, but the two sides couldn't work out a deal. Tampa Bay traded Bishop to Los Angeles in February, and earlier this month Nill sent a fourth-round draft pick to the Kings for the pending unrestricted free agent and then signed him to a six-year, $29.5 million contract.
"There's [only] so many elite goalies in the league and Ben is one of them," Nill said. "When you have an opportunity to acquire one of those goalies, it became a priority for us."
The 30-year-old Bishop believes he is in the prime years of his career.
"I feel like I've gotten better every year each of the last four or five years," Bishop said. "I'm comfortable. I feel really confident. You learn a lot, and every year you learn a little bit more. And hopefully it's a big peak, and I can keep going."
Both Bishop and new head coach Ken Hitchcock, who is expected to bring a stronger focus on defensive play, should be a major boost to the Stars, who ranked 29th in the league this past season in goals against (3.17 per game).
"The goaltending is going to help the defense, and that will help the forwards," Nill said. "What excites me about Ben is the way he handles the puck. He might be one of the best puck movers on our team when it comes down to it. That's how good he is. That's what Steve Yzerman raved about. He said [Bishop] is the best puck mover in the game. That's going to help our team and just the stability and experience that he brings. You put that together with Ken Hitchcock and the structure he is going to bring to our team, it's exactly what our team needs right now."
And the Stars were on Bishop's radar as well. As the Kings were searching for a trading partner, Bishop had a say in where he would go, and Dallas was at the top of his list.
"I think it's a great fit," Bishop said. "You look at the forwards, it's a hard league to score in, and they have a lot of forwards who can put the puck in the net. As a goalie, it makes it a little more comforting when you know the guys in front of you can go out there and score. I think they have a lot of potential, winning the division a couple of years ago. It's a good team, and they are ready to win now. It's not a rebuild or anything like that. To go to a place where you have a chance to win right now is exciting."
But for now, the focus is to get settled into the Dallas area and perhaps carve out a little time to look around Frisco and take a trip down memory lane.
"I haven't gone up there yet, but I am excited to go," Bishop said. "I've heard it's changed quite a bit and it's growing. When I was here that's where the tollway ended, so I think it has kind of gone past there. It will be fun to go up there and see the area again and explore."
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.