“They hit it off,” Bishop mentioned. “They had been actually good buddies.”
Pritchard is the authentic and most well-known Keeper of the Cup. His museum-formal white gloves and distinctive blonde locks have made him a minor movie star. Fans line up for an image with him after they’ve gotten one with the Cup.
Pritchard began accompanying the Cup on its journeys 32 years in the past and launched the custom of every participant, coach and employees member on the championship staff getting their very own day with the Cup beginning with the 1995 New Jersey Devils.
“I truly grew up calling him Uncle Phil,” Bishop mentioned.
The households would spend Christmas collectively. One yr, “Uncle Phil” gave Bishop a Vancouver Pavel Bure jersey from the Canucks’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1994.
“From that time on, I used to be an enormous hockey fan,” Bishop mentioned.
At age 14, Bishop began attending the Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Celebration yearly.
“I fell in love with it,” Bishop mentioned. “I beloved assembly all the coaches, all the gamers. I beloved being round all the memorabilia and all the artifacts.”
Whenever the Stanley Cup was round, Bishop would all the time make sure that to get an image with it, his earliest coming at six years outdated. He laments he would not have a pic as a child inside the Cup.
“I form of was razzing Phil about that the different day,” he mentioned, laughing.
As a child, Bishop would placed on charity occasions, like conducting avenue hockey video games, and attempt to get the Cup out for the occasion. Sometimes he was profitable.
He received the Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year award in 2000 for his charity efforts.
“There’s heaps of nice footage of me in the paper with Phil and the Cup, the Conn Smythe, the Prince of Wales at charity occasions,” Bishop mentioned.
All alongside, he’d let Pritchard know he’d ultimately prefer to grow to be a Keeper of the Cup too.
“Every yr at the induction, I might form of pester him and say, ‘I’d actually like to do what you do in the future,'” Bishop recalled.
At final yr’s induction in November, Bishop requested once more if there was a gap.
“I would not say he bugged me, however he is been persistent with me for years,” Pritchard mentioned. “I feel if something, for youths listening on the market, being persistent is sweet. We all need to obtain our targets. Being persistent is the way you get there.”
In January, Bishop began doing outreach occasions – going out in the group, establishing artifact shows and explaining the artifacts — for the Hockey Hall of Fame. In March, he was scheduled to go to Boston for a reunion weekend with Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr and the relaxation of the 1970 Boston Bruins, however the COVID-19 pandemic paused the National Hockey League’s season earlier that week and cancelled these plans.
“I used to be fairly dissatisfied with that and every thing that occurred with the season,” Bishop mentioned. “I assumed perhaps I may not get my alternative this yr.”
The 2020 Tampa Bay Lightning can be the maiden voyage for Dave Bishop’s journey as an official Keeper of the Cup.
The Stanley Cup has hung out with a number of Lightning employees members. A pair gamers have already had their flip with it.
On the day Bishop and I discuss, season ticket holders are coming by AMALIE Arena to have their snapshot taken subsequent to the Cup, Bishop standing off to the aspect and overseeing.
They’ve taken the Cup to landmarks and picture-worthy spots throughout the Tampa Bay space: The Dali, Busch Gardens, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the Florida Aquarium.
“When we went to St. Pete Beach, that was improbable,” Bishop mentioned. “We had it out on the seaside. The footage had been phenomenal. They had been throughout social media. The folks down there have been improbable. Everybody will get their snapshot with (the Cup). When we arrange for a photograph shoot, we simply principally inform everybody that is gathered round, ‘Let us get our footage after which you may all come by and take footage with it.’
“We simply need everyone to get their snapshot with it. That’s actually necessary for us is having a great expertise with the Cup when it is out in the group.”
At Busch Gardens, cheetahs ate from the Cup’s bowl.
“I used to be a little bit scared being round the cheetahs,” Bishop admitted.
As we discuss, a hazard alert blares from Bishop’s cellular phone. Hurricane Eta – downgraded to a tropical storm earlier than reaching shore – is churning in the Gulf of Mexico and some hours from hitting the Tampa Bay space.
The storm is one other first for Bishop.
“That’s thrilling for me as a result of being from Canada, I’ve by no means been round that,” he mentioned.
The Cup was scheduled to go on a ship tour the day Eta hit.
That tour, clearly, did not occur.
The storm cancellation is one of many obstacles the Cup Keepers face on this most uncommon of offseasons. With limitations on the quantity of folks allowed to rejoice with gamers throughout their days with the Cup as good as restrictions on the place the Cup is allowed to go, the Cup’s schedule is ever-evolving, virtually as much as the minute.
“I feel proper now we have no concept of what we will and can do with it once we’re on these days with the gamers, the teaching employees,” Bishop mentioned. “Sometimes we discover out the day earlier than. I do not know if that is typical, however I feel with the fluid scenario this yr, it has been one thing that generally we discover out a little bit late, and as lengthy as it is ok inside the NHL protocols for COVID, superior, let’s do it.”
Realistically, Bishop may nonetheless be ready for his Cup Keeper alternative if it wasn’t for Covid. In a typical offseason, the job normally lasts from mid-June to the starting of September.
With the pause of the 2019-20 season and eventual resumption, culminating in Tampa Bay profitable the Stanley Cup on September 28 – practically a full yr after beginning the season October 3, 2019 – the Lightning could have the Cup from October by December. Many of the Cup Keepers have instructing jobs outdoors their Hockey Hall of Fame duties, so the timing with their faculty schedules did not enable them to accompany the Cup this season.
Which opened a chance for Bishop.
“Once Covid form of set in, I had given up on it altogether,” Bishop mentioned. “I assumed perhaps we would not even have days with the Cup this yr. When it was March, April and other people could not even depart their homes, undoubtedly down on the risk of doing it. But, yeah, is it a bit of a blessing in disguise? Perhaps, however I’m simply taking it daily proper now, simply making an attempt to take pleasure in it, simply making an attempt to soak it in.”
“He loves it,” Pritchard added. “He’s hanging out in Tampa in November, no marvel he loves it.”
When Bishop’s not with the Cup, he runs Bishop Sports, which he describes as a boutique participant company specializing in aiding junior gamers, gamers out of faculty and gamers heading to Europe attain their most potential on and off the ice.
“Even in the brief time I’ve been (a Keeper of the Cup), day-after-day you will get three or 4 folks that say, ‘You have the greatest job. How do I get your job?’ But you need to have one thing to do if you’re not on the highway,” Bishop defined. “I’m capable of do (my job) whereas I’m on the highway when I’ve some free time. So I’m in a really distinctive scenario. On one hand, sure, it’s a very aggressive job. Rather a lot of folks need to do that, however then relating to the nitty gritty it isn’t ultimate for everyone’s scenario.”
Bishop has discovered his ultimate scenario, accompanying the Stanley Cup on its journey round the world, assembly new folks, having new experiences, all whereas hanging out with “Uncle Phil”, his household good friend who helped him land his dream job.
“32 years, proper? He’s been doing it endlessly, and he is grow to be synonymous with the Cup,” Bishop mentioned of Pritchard. “The Cup has all the time had handlers per se, however Phil actually made it one thing particular. He made it one thing that you would aspire to. I actually take it as a present that I’m capable of even simply be in Phil’s orbit.”