DALLAS — Ben Bishop’s 2½-year saga with an ailing right knee is ending with the Dallas Stars goalie believing he did everything possible to get his career going again.
He is still not quite at peace with the fact that he couldn’t.
Bishop confirmed Tuesday what Stars general manager Jim Nill said three days earlier: The 35-year-old’s playing days are done because of a degenerative issue in the knee.
“I guess one of the hard things is, I get out there and I still feel pretty good in some of the practices and you still feel like you have the skill to play in this league,” said Bishop, whose last NHL game was in the 2020 playoff bubble in Canada 15 months ago. “But then when your knee tells you you can’t, it’s tough.”
It’s not officially a retirement because Bishop is. under contract through next season and will still be around the team. But the three-time Vezina Trophy finalist won’t be in net again after last week’s one-game rehab attempt with the AHL’s Texas Stars yielded eight goals and even worse news afterward. The knee was swollen again.
Bishop said the first sign of trouble with the knee came during a seven-game loss to St. Louis in the second round of the 2019 playoffs. He had surgery to clean up a torn meniscus after playing through the injury until the COVID-19 pause during the 2019-20 season.
When pain persisted and kept him out of all but three games during the Stars’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020, Bishop had the knee checked again. Surgery to repair the meniscus revealed that cartilage was wearing away. Essentially, Bishop was playing bone-on-bone, which often caused sharp pain, particularly with the butterfly moves.
As a result, Bishop missed all of the shortened 2020-21 season. While he practiced with the team most of this season, Bishop never came close to being activated.
“If I was a forward, I could be playing right now,” Bishop said. “But with the butterfly, the torque you put on your knee, it just couldn’t really get better.”
The emotional moments for Bishop came when talking about teammates and family members, including wife Andrea and young sons Ben and James sitting nearby. Bishop did chuckle, though, when recalling his dad telling him he wasn’t going to miss the AHL game in the Austin area because he hadn’t seen his son play in two years.
Bishop read off a list of people to thank, starting with the St. Louis organization since the Stars were playing the Blues later in the day in the same arena.
Bishop’s career started as a 22-year-old in St. Louis, where he played youth hockey. He led Tampa Bay within two victories of the title in 2015, when the Lightning lost to Chicago in six games.
Tampa Bay was the title winner in six against Dallas two seasons ago, with Anton Khudobin taking over after Bishop tried once but couldn’t go again in each of the first three playoff series victories.
Rick Bowness was an assistant with the Lightning when Bishop led them to the brink of the title, and said he joined the Dallas staff because of Bishop. Bowness took over as coach early in the 2019-20 season.
“He took a team to the finals that wasn’t quite ready to go to the finals,” Bowness said. “He’ll look back at his career and know that he got everything he could out of his ability. When he was on, no matter who was healthy in the league, he was top three, in my opinion.”
Bishop was 222-128-36 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in 413 games over 11 seasons with five teams. The others were Ottawa and Los Angeles. In the playoffs, he was 36-21-13 with a 2.09 GAA and .927 save percentage.
In his final playoff game before the knee became a significant issue, Bishop had a career-high 52 saves in Dallas’ 2-1 overtime loss in Game 7 against the Blues in 2019.
“The path that I took, going to college, going to the minors, fighting your way up to the NHL and kind of establishing yourself and having some success,” Bishop said. “I think there’s some satisfaction, but you want to win the Stanley Cup. I guess I’ll try to find a different way to win that now.”