A quick Google search of "Paul Bissonnette" shows that, as expected, the first result is his Twitter account. He likely wouldn’t have it any other way.
The former Wheeling Nailers standout is one of the most popular players on the social networking site in not just the NHL, but all of sports. He boasts over 145,000 followers on his "BizNasty2Point0" account — he shut down the first one after some controversial tweets, hence the "2Point0" after his nickname — and depending on your thoughts on his occasionally adults-only comments, it turns out you either have Scottie Upshall to hate or thank.
"Upshall told me about Twitter," said Bissonnette in an exclusive one-on-one with ECHL.com last season. "I just kind of started it and it blew up, I don’t really know. They keep adding me, and I keep throwing up the tweets until I stop or get kicked off."
Bissonnette’s role on the Phoenix Coyotes is such that he’s often a healthy scratch, but his candid nature and willingness to stand up for teammates and drop the gloves has made him a huge fan favorite in Glendale. He often gets some good-natured tweets from his followers — he gets around 400 "chirps" a day, he says — but those are often in response to humorous self-deprecating remarks Bissonnette himself makes about his lack of ice time. His current Twitter bio states that he plays in the NHL for the Coyotes: "Well, sort of."
"You’ve just got to remember that you’re in the NHL and that’s the main thing," he said.
"I obviously like to play, but part of my role is trying to be a little bit of a jokester around the room and keeping the guys light. If they get to laugh at my expense, I don’t mind at all. It’s part of my job, I guess."
But the Bissonnette story starts in Wheeling, West Virginia. As his Twitter bio also claims: "Once played in the ECHL for the Wheeling Nailers, seriously, that was the name."
Selected in the fourth round of the NHL Draft in 2003 by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Bissonnette split his first pro season in 2005-06 between the Nailers and their AHL affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. It was the first of three seasons that Bissonnette would call WesBanco Arena home.
"It was fun, we had a great team," recalls Bissonnette of his first pro year.
"We had a bunch of AHL guys. I was signed to a two-way NHL/AHL contract, and there were about five or six other guys that were, so it was fun. The first year, I think I played 14 games there, and I was up the rest of the year. Then I ended up going down pretty much the whole year the next year. The year after that, I started there, so yeah I guess you could say three different seasons. But I probably played close to 100 games. It was good, it was fun because you got to play. It wasn’t as structured as the AHL, but it was still a good adjustment period, it was fun."
Bissonnette, now 26 years old, split each of his first three full professional seasons between Wheeling and WBS, playing in 104 AHL games and 101 ECHL games between 2005-06 and 2007-08. With only ten forwards dressed in the ECHL compared to 12 at the next level, Bissonnette says adjusting to less ice time during his time in the AHL made things difficult at first.
"The only thing that was hard was a lot less ice time, you’re used to playing more minutes," he said. "Your role is kind of limited up top. It’s definitely a big jump, I think the East Coast to the AHL is the bigger jump than the AHL to the NHL. As far as staying in the NHL, it might be a little harder, but it’s a lot more structured, I thought."
Bissonnette finally broke through and made his NHL debut in 2008-09, playing in his first game on Oct. 4, 2008 in a 4-3 Penguins win over Ottawa. According to the Welland, Ontario native, the NHL lifestyle took some getting used to after three years of riding the bus in the minors.
"I remember we used to bus pretty much the day of the game everywhere, you get to the rink and you have bus legs. That first period, you’re basically trying to get warm. The places you eat, everything. But it was good, it keeps you humble. I definitely like this lifestyle a lot better, that’s for sure."
Bissonnette played in 15 NHL games during the 2008-09 season, playing in another 57 with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the regular season and eight more games in the playoffs. He was expecting to spend another season in the Penguins organization in 2009-10, but was claimed on waivers prior to the start of the season by the Coyotes, who he’s been up in the NHL with ever since.
"I loved Pittsburgh, they gave me my first opportunity and it was nice when I got sent down that these guys claimed me," Bissonnette said.
"You always want to be in the NHL. It was sad leaving Pittsburgh, I told them that they did a lot for me and I appreciate it. But getting a two-year deal here was awesome, I won the lottery."
Not bad for a guy who never thought he’d be in the NHL at all.
"I didn’t think it would get to this," he said. "That’s not being negative towards my game, you just don’t really see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re in the ECHL. But it worked out."