Big Ben Back in Calgaryby Matt Burch | January 17, 2018, 10:53 PM ET
Goaltending had been a touchy subject for the Mustangs for many years. Often times, the goalies manning the pipes either were past their prime, had too much piled on their plate, or were just downright inexplicably awful. We've seen Nikolai Khabibulin's wall crumble, we've seen John Grahame's cracker crack, we've seen Chris Osgood teach us irony, and we've even seen Olaf Kolzig do what old men do: give as little effort as possible and complain when things don't go your way.
Then, in 2005, the Calgary Mustangs took a shot and drafted an American born goaltender after the several flops they drafted in years past. The big (and I do mean big) goaltender was lean and lanky, but had a good head on his shoulders and right away seemed like a pro off the ice. Ben Bishop (or Big Ben as many called him) came into his own at the University of Maine, playing for three years and playing most of the games there, amassing wins and saves, as well as leading his team to the Frozen Four twice, falling just short both times.
After three years, he was ready for the pros. He started off - as many goaltenders do - bouncing back and forth between the minors and the backup role for the pro team. In 2014-2015, almost 10 years after being drafted, Bishop was given the reins as the starter, and he immediately delivered, finishing with 44 wins and a .916 save percentage.
Ben had 40+ wins in each of his three seasons as a starter, reaching the playoffs each year, including a near dominant performance last season that brought the team closer than it's ever been to the Cup. Age and contracts, however, are bitter facts of this league, and despite a sterling resume, the long term must always be considered (unless you're Dustin). The fact was Bishop and star winger Patrick Kane both had the same contract duration, so there would come a time where one could be franchised while the other had to walk. While Patrick Kane was shopped around for a couple of trades, including one rumored for blue chip prospect Mathew Barzal (#$%!), the price was just never right in Calgary's eyes. So, ultimately, the trigger was pulled on a trade for Robin Lehner - a younger, slightly cheaper goaltender - that sent Ben to London, where, coincidentally (not ironically, like I said, Osgood taught us what this was), there is the Big Bend clock, which just seems so fitting.
Ben Bishop will be welcomed with open arms tomorrow night in Calgary (expect a tribute), and who knows? Maybe the gentle giant will even shed a tear, because we remember a goaltender who was a consumate professional, but was all heart. Good luck, Ben!