by Naila Jinnah || AHL On The Beat Archive
Bish and Nash, as the pair is now commonly referred to, are out indefinitely after becoming injured in the early days of the season. Together, they have become quite the community relations duo in the greater Hamilton area.
“When I first got injured, I knew it would be a rough year sitting and watching everyone else play,” said Bishop. “Brendon and I decided to live together and it’s really worked out great.”
The 24-year-olds are definitely contributing to spreading some cheer, and not just for the holiday season. Their training schedule isn’t hectic enough to fill the days, so they’re taking advantage of their extra time to give back to the community.
Bishop and Nash try to plan at least one event daily in coordination with the Bulldogs Foundation.
“With Hunter being out as well, it gave us the opportunity to do these events with someone else,” said Nash. “In a way, it makes us feel like we’re a part of the team. It’s our way of contributing to the overall success of the team.”
In the last week alone, Bish and Nash went to eight fundraising or meet-and-greet events, including a few school visits, some community group visits, and a minor hockey scouting forum. And that’s on top of their regular game-day meet-and-greet activities.
This hectic schedule keeps them from getting restless, but that’s not why they do it.
“It’s a lot of fun because I can remember what it was like at that age to talk, meet, and get autographs from professional or college players,” said Bishop. “It was something that always stuck with me.”
Nash also prefers visits that are more casual in format.
“I enjoy it the most when the kids can tell me about themselves,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s usually us talking to the kids and not a lot of talking on their part.
“The kids always have questions for us and are so intrigued that it makes me want to be a better person and always go back for more visits,” added Nash.
But it’s not all fun and games. Bishop and Nash are aware that the kids look up to them and actually pay attention to what they’re saying.
“It is easier for kids to listen to people from outside their usual teachers,” explained Nash. “After hearing the same voice for a long time it becomes a little tedious.”
“I definitely feel like we are making a difference,” added Bishop. “The more visits that we do, the more I’m noticing how much it means to the kids to have us there.”
He tells a story about visiting a local school and learning from the teacher that snack time in the afternoon might be the first time a child has had anything to eat all day.
“That really puts things into perspective for us, and makes me realize how fortunate I am to live the life I live today,” he said.
For both players, their favorite part of a community event is the moment they first walk in to a room full of excited kids and see the smiles break out on their faces: “The kids go crazy!” Bishop exclaimed.
And the holiday season is the perfect excuse to ramp up their community outings. In fact, both players feel energized by the spirit of the season. It’s one of their favorite times of the year because they get to spend it with friends and family.
But as Nash notes, the holidays are tough when you have to spend them alone. So his motto is Saint Nick’s: to spread the Christmas cheer.
“The need to spread joy around the world is huge,” said Nash. “I don’t want to limit myself to only volunteering during the holidays but I want to make sure I do, because this is when people need it most.”
The Bulldogs continue their holiday community tour on Dec. 13 with the 16th annual holiday visit to the McMaster Children’s Hospital. The Bulldogs Foundation will also be drawing winners for the “My Favourite Things” raffle at the last home game before the holidays on Dec. 14. Fans buy raffle tickets until the end of the first period to bid on baskets put together by each player. The funds raised help provide a holiday package of toys, clothing, and food for four Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton families.
“In the end, it doesn’t matter about the wins and losses,” sums up Nash. “Rather, it’s the impact we have on the community and the positive influence we provide to the younger kids that matter the most.”