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We will miss you, Ben Bishop

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A fond farewell to our beloved brick wall.

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Rangers - Game Seven Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Ben Bishop was more than just the Lightning’s number one netminder, he was a calming presence and a powerful, resilient force on the ice. Even on nights when the defense looked weak or the forwards looked tired, Bishop would square his shoulders, protect the net, and lead the Bolts to victory. As fans, we’ve seen it more times than we can count. Bishop stole games for us on a regular basis and we grew accustomed to his Vezina-caliber performance nearly every night.

He spawned more than a few phrases and nicknames over his three-plus seasons with the Bolts. Perhaps the most famous is “Bish, Please” - a phrase which appeared on a t-shirt worn by Captain Steven Stamkos celebrating one of Bishop’s many shutouts (Ryan Callahan’s reaction remains one of my favorite things to this day).

Bishop set quite a few franchise records during his short tenure with the Bolts including games played (227), wins (131), saves (6,222) and shutouts (17). Each of his three full seasons as starting goalie rank at the top of wins-per-season in franchise history (40 wins in 2014-2015, 37 wins in 2013-2014, and 35 wins in 2015-2016).

Those records speak not only to his skill, but his reliability as a consistent goalie for the Lightning. They also reveal how much the Bolts have struggled in net prior to the arrival of Bishop. Perhaps that’s why so many of us latched on to Bishop so quickly. He alleviated one of our biggest perennial fears - we no longer had to constantly worry about goals being scored against us.

He’s been a fantastic netminder, but that’s not the only reason we will miss Bishop. We will miss him for the person that he is, his commitment to the fans, and his genuine support of every other player on the team - including young goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

"We're like one little goalie team," Vasilevskiy said. "He's my teacher, like my coach."

"It's fun to watch each other and encourage each other," Bishop said. "You want each guy to do well because it makes it easier on you."

"Vasy looks up to Bish," Lightning goalie coach Frantz Jean said. "Bish helps Vasy. It's really a good relationship between, both mentor and mentoree type relationship. It helps the team."

- Joe Smith, Tampa Bay Times, October 17, 2016

He has served as a mentor to Vasilevskiy. If Vasilevskiy develops into the starting goalie that we all hope he will become, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Bishop for guiding and supporting him.

Bishop always takes the opportunity to support the local community. Right before Christmas, he held an autograph session with the caveat that fans had to donate an unopened toy in exchange for an autograph.

The cynics might believe that this was just a PR stunt, which is why my favorite Ben Bishop story remains the simple moment when Bishop handed a signed goalie stick to a Lightning fan who came to watch the Bolts face the Blues in St. Louis. There were no cameras around and no press to improve his public image. He just cares about the fans this way, a rare quality among professional athletes.

Big Ben, we will miss you for everything that you’ve done for this franchise. We will miss your remarkable saves, your pregame back-bending yoga routine, your Game 7 shutouts, and your captivating smile (both before and after you lost your two front teeth).

NHL.com

You are a fantastic goalie, but more importantly you are a wonderful person. There is no doubt in our minds that the Tampa Bay Lightning could not have reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015 or the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016 if it weren’t for your presence between the pipes.

Thank you for the memories. We wish you all the best with the Kings.