Will Bishop reflects on beating hometown Knights for Memorial Cup: ‘Surreal’

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Will Bishop grew up in London cheering for the Knights.

On Sunday, he and his Saginaw Spirit teammates, including Strathroy’s Hunter Haight, beat them in the Memorial Cup final.

“It’s a pretty surreal moment,” the big defenceman said. “It’s going to take a while to soak in, but it’s crazy.”

The steady Bishop finished with zero points in five tournament games and had a plus-4 rating. After the Spirit blew the three-goal lead, the hosts never wavered.

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“We knew they were a great team and were going to come back,” the former Oakridge secondary school student said. “We were saying on the bench, ‘who’s going to be the hero?’ And we ended up getting it. Never a doubt and big-time play from (game-winning scorer Josh) Bloom.

“Those guys beat us in the (playoffs). It’s crazy to get some revenge (here).”

Bishop and Haight earned the right to celebrate. Bishop recalled spending childhood mornings working on his defensive game with Bryan Rodney and also had Danny Syvret as a coach at the end of his minor hockey career.

Both were anchors on London’s 2005 Memorial Cup-winning blue line.

“They were a huge influence when you have guys like that stick around London,” the 19-year-old said. “Amazing coaches and great guys and the Junior Knights are lucky to have them.”

Bishop’s OHL draft year was essentially wiped out by the pandemic in 2021 but London faced Elgin-Middlesex about a dozen times. So he knows what it’s like to go up against Maple Leafs first-rounder Easton Cowan.

“We grew up playing against him and he was very good,” the big blue-liner said of the OHL regular-season and playoff MVP. “You could see the skill. He excelled in London’s system.”

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Bishop spent some time at Ridley College in St. Catharines with his old minor hockey teammate Charlie Robertson before joining the Sudbury Wolves. He played there his first OHL season, split between the Nickel City and the Tier II Espanola Paper Kings.

It was a bit of a culture shock before being dealt to Saginaw ahead of this season.

“I didn’t know where I would fit in,” he said. “It’s been a great experience. The coaching staff has been amazing and I worked my way into the top six for the moment. It was the best thing for me coming in the summer. This organization fought hard to bring the Memorial Cup here.”

And then, they won it.

rpyette@postmedia.com

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