Two years ago, ESPN.com's Scott Burnside sat down with Ben Bishop on the eve of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs to talk about becoming a playoff starter for the first time. Bishop and the Tampa Bay Lightning would go on to advance all the way to the Stanley Cup finals and then make a return trip to the Eastern Conference finals the following spring.
But the sands on which NHL careers are built are ever-changing, and now Bishop, a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist who was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 27, is a week into his new life on the West Coast. Burnside caught up with Bishop again this week to chat about what has been an emotional couple of weeks -- saying a hurried goodbye to his friends in Tampa, being called one of the most important players in Lightning franchise history and experiencing his first "L.A. moment."
ESPN.com: How did you find out that you were headed to Los Angeles?
Ben Bishop: I was just sitting there. I think it was six o'clock at night, and I got a call from [Tampa GM] Steve Yzerman. Obviously, I knew something had happened. And he called me and told me that he'd traded me to L.A. It wasn't a very long conversation and he said that [Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi] would be calling. And, sure enough, Dean called about a minute later. I had about an hour and 45 minutes to pack up and then get on a flight at 9 o'clock at night.
ESPN.com: This didn't come completely out of the blue for you, but was there still a moment of "Holy cow, is this really happening to me?"
Bishop: You can prepare yourself as much as possible, but when it happens, still it's a little bit of a shock, I guess. Then you've got about two hours to get ready. You have to go to the rink to get your stuff. You just kind of sit there and reflect on your time in Tampa. It can be a little sad, obviously, but there's also a little bit of excitement about going to a new team. So you have a lot of different emotions going on, and at the end of the day you're on a new team and the next morning you're going to a morning skate like you've been there for five years. The hockey world's small enough where you can go from team to team and you can feel comfortable in a short period of time.
ESPN.com: What was it like to go to the rink in Tampa one last time before you left?
Bishop: It was later at night, around 6:30. But the Lightning trainer met me there and we packed up the bag. And we kind of laughed. I said goodbye to the security guards who are there all the time and to some of the workers around the rink, but that was it. I talked to Coop [head coach Jon Cooper] on the phone and whatnot, but it was pretty quick. I was in a hurry, so there wasn't much time to sit there and reminisce.
ESPN.com: Cooper said after the trade that you should be considered one of the most important players in franchise history. Is it nice to be so fondly remembered -- or do you try not to think about that too much?
Bishop: I've had some time to sit back and think [about] my four and a half years in Tampa. We had a lot of success and we won a lot of hockey games and we had a lot of good players. So there's a lot of good memories. From your time with the coaching staff and the workers in the rink and the equipment guys and the medical guys and your teammates, through all the winning you've done in the last four years -- it all brings a lot of happy memories. When I got there, we were maybe the third-worst team in the league. I think we had the third pick when we got [Jonathan] Drouin -- and two years later we're two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup. So we had a lot of success there.
ESPN.com: What was it like to pull on that Kings jersey for the first time?
Bishop: When you put on a jersey and it's a different logo ... I mean, you've been putting on one team's jersey for four-plus years so it's a little different. But once you get out there and you start going through the skates, it sort of feels the same. During games, it's the same -- but you've got to get used to where the players are going and you're trying to learn everybody's name, so that's a difference. The wordage is a bit different too when you're talking to the 'D,' so there's definitely an adjustment period.
To be honest, the game in Calgary felt a little bit more natural because it was a road game and everything's the same because you're on the road. But the last game was a lot different because it was a home game, but it didn't feel like a home game.
ESPN.com: We get excited at the trade deadline because it's like watching chess pieces moving around. But it's about real human beings who have real human things to deal with. What has that part of it been like?
Bishop: I'm a little lucky because I just have a fiancé. It would be really tough if you had kids. I was talking to Brian Boyle [former Lightning teammate who was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs]. He has a little one and a pregnant wife, so he's got it a lot harder than I do right now. Luckily, I had my fiancé help me pack up some things and ship them out here. I had to figure out what I was going to do as far as where I'm living here and what I'm doing with my lease back in Tampa and where all my stuff is going. But I was playing hockey the next night, so there's no time off. I have a lot of stuff going on around the rink that I have to take care of. But the teams do a really good job of helping you out and making sure it's not a distraction. The Kings have been really good at making it a smooth transition.
People don't really realize. They see you in one jersey one night and a different jersey the next night, but there's a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes.
ESPN.com: Maybe it's a little different for goalies, but in terms of fitting in and finding that playing rhythm, do you get a sense of the urgency from the Kings?
Bishop: You can feel the urgency. It's a real veteran team in L.A., so there are a lot of guys who have been around and done a lot of winning. Tampa was a younger team. Coming here, with a lot of veterans, there's a sense of urgency -- but at the same time a confidence that they can get it done no matter what the circumstances are. It's different. You've got to learn. When you play with the same guys for so long, you know everybody's tendencies. Obviously, coming into a new 'D' corps and new forwards, they're trying to feel you out and you're trying to feel them out, to see how they play.
So there's definitely a transition, as far as what the defensemen do in certain situations and what the forwards do. For a goalie, there's probably more to it than you think -- reading off the 'D' and how they play the one-on-ones and different things like that.
ESPN.com: The uncertainty isn't really over for you, as you'll be a free agent in July. Do you feel that, with the trade, the first shoe has dropped and you're able to push the rest to the side?
Bishop: I was a little frustrated, at the beginning of the season, coming off of probably my best season of my career and not getting to play as much as I wanted to in Tampa. I wanted to kind of keep it the same as the last three years, because it had been working. We started switching goalies back and forth in Tampa, and it wasn't working. We were falling in the standings and it was making me a little bit upset. Why fix what's not broken?
Now that the trade has gone through, I don't have to worry about it. [The Lightning] said they were going to try and trade me [last] summer and then at the beginning of the season. It's in the back of your mind all year: If and when is it going to go down? So the fact I have been traded definitely makes it a little bit easier. You don't have that in the back of your mind. You can just focus on trying to make the playoffs with L.A. and do the best that you can. Obviously, you can worry about that stuff in the summer. But that's a little different from never knowing if you're going to be traded, because the UFA is going to be there no matter what. So it's a little easier to deal with.
ESPN.com: Have you had an L.A. moment yet?
Bishop: Absolutely. There's been a couple. They have us up in Manhattan Beach, kind of near the practice rink. You're a couple of blocks from the beach, so you can see the ocean every day -- which is kind of an L.A. moment. And during my first [home] game, Will Ferrell was sitting behind the bench. So that was my second L.A. moment.