The smile on Hunter Bishop's face said it all.
Manchester Monarchs second-year forward Bishop was named the Union Leader Fan Favorite award winner prior to Saturday's game against Portland. Bishop said he was surprised by the honor and couldn't stop smiling when he was talking about it.
"I'm honored. This is a hockey city and they know the sport so if they picked me as the fan favorite I'm pretty happy to hear that," Bishop said. "I've prided myself on being a guy that does things the right way and never taking a shift off and trying to give my best effort every night. I'm honored that the fans noticed and it's something I hope to continue throughout my career."
Bishop played in 55 games prior to Saturday night's tilt, scoring six goals with nine assists and a plus-12 rating. Because his numbers don't scream out for attention, Bishop said he was happy that the Monarchs fans noticed the other ways he contributes.
"If you look at my stat line, I'm not a top points guy. I might not always be on the scoresheet but hopefully fans can notice the other things I do on the ice and I guess they did," Bishop said. "It definitely feels good. It's nice to have the coaches approval and the teammates approval and for them to acknowledge how you play, but to have the fans who come in and spend their hard-working dollars to watch you play, if they respect my game that means a lot."
Bishop said the award is especially meaningful considering the talented players that have suited up in Manchester this season, including those currently with the parent club Los Angeles Kings.
"The one thing that sticks out the most to me is that this is one of the greatest hockey teams I've ever played on," Bishop said. "We've had so many great players through this room and we still have so many great players here now, whether they're with L.A. or still here. For the fans to pick me for this award, it takes me by surprise and I'm honored."
Bishop seems to have found a home in Manchester after bouncing around the AHL with Hamilton, Lake Erie and Rochester before joining the Monarchs last season.
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Other honors: In addition to the Union Leader Fan Favorite trophy, the Monarchs also handed out several other awards during Saturday's Fan Appreciation Night.
The Ace Bailey Most Valuable Player award (voted on by the Monarchs coaches and players) went to Jordan Weal. The Mark Bavis Unsung Hero award (voted by the players) went to captain Andrew Campbell, who also won the Monarchs Community Service award (voted by the Monarchs Care Foundation).Brian O'Neill won the Manchester Monarchs Booster Club Player of the Year award.
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JJ gets his break: Finally, after five years in the ECHL and another four in the AHL, and less than a month shy of his 33rd birthday, Justin Johnson made his NHL debut on Friday night with the New York Islanders in a 3-2 shootout win over New Jersey.
Known as an enforcer with a heart of gold, Johnson played three seasons with the Monarchs before joining Bridgeport this season. Johnson was a fan favorite and popular player in the locker room and the Monarchs players were excited for the man they called J.J.
And Johnson himself was understandably excited as well. Johnson logged 7:15 of ice time and collected three body checks on his stat sheet while playing in a game that featured legendary names like Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Martin Broduer.
"It was a thrill. Thrill, thrill, thrill, man," Johnson told his hometown paper the Anchorage (Alaska) News. "I didn't feel like my feet touched the ground all day. I got on the ice for warm-ups, and there's Jagr, there's Elias. I started stretching, and turned to stretch my oblique, and there's Brodeur. I was like, 'I guess we're doing this for real.'?"
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is email@example.com.