TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs used University of Toronto goalie Alexander Bishop as their backup to starter Jack Campbell when they defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-1 at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday.
“It’s not lost on me at this point, it’s a pretty rare opportunity,” Bishop said after the game. “Not a lot of people get to do things like this, so just pretty lucky and lucky to be cheering for my hometown team.”
The 24-year-old was signed to an amateur tryout contract because the Maple Leafs were unable to recall a goalie from the American Hockey League due to NHL salary cap constraints. Goalie Petr Mrazek sustained a groin injury in a 3-2 loss at Ottawa on Thursday.
“That was pretty surreal,” Bishop said. “You never really notice the flash of the cameras until you get out there. It’s pretty distracting. But it was cool, especially at the end of warmup and getting to face some shots, which is really cool.”
The Maple Leafs had an insufficient amount of salary cap space to recall a goalie from Toronto without making another roster move. In order to access the emergency recall exemption, the Maple Leafs would have had to play short one player for the game, but other factors surfaced with defenseman Justin Holl unable to play due to an illness.
“It just comes down to the fact that the flat cap has created some situations here that are a lot more difficult to manage even compared to a year ago with the taxi squad,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Justin Holl’s situation with him having cold symptoms and his PCR (COVID-19) test not having come back yet has created another situation for us.”
Timothy Liljegren, the only extra defenseman on the Maple Leafs roster, made his season debut in place of Holl. The Maple Leafs could have assigned Liljegren, who is exempt from waivers, to Toronto of the AHL and recalled a goalie but then would have played with five defensemen due to Holl being unavailable.
The Maple Leafs now will be able to recall goalie Michael Hutchinson, and he will join them at practice Sunday. Mrazek is expected to be out at least 14 days.
Bishop had not played in a competitive regular-season game since making 24 saves in a 3-1 loss to Western University on Feb. 16, 2020. The University of Toronto did not play last season due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The last time an emergency backup goalie was used in the NHL was Feb. 22, 2020, also at Scotiabank Arena, when David Ayres made seven saves in 28:41 for the Carolina Hurricanes after Mrazek and James Reimer each sustained an injury during the game. Ayres earned the win with the Hurricanes defeating the Maple Leafs 6-3.
Bishop said he and Ayres used to split emergency goalie duties and he would have had the chance to play had it been his turn.
“I was a day late,” Bishop said. “That would have been me last year being the EBUG. But yeah, the comparisons were definitely made today.”
Asked what he would remember most about Saturday, Bishop said, “I think I’m still kind of soaking it in. But I think just the reaction from all my friends and family and people that I probably hadn’t spoken to in five or six years messaged me. I turned off my phone, but it wasn’t a shot at them. Just the support system I have, my friends and families, it’s great.”
NHL.com staff writer Mike Zeisberger contributed to this report