Certain stories are larger than life. One of those is Phil Kessel’s. If there ever was a person who’s been bashed for no legitimate reason, look no further than the native of Madison, Wisconsin.
See, the thing with communication is, that there is more to it than actual words. When you’re hoisting the Stanley Cup on a stage in front of a packed city, you don’t really need words. That’ll make for a picture which speaks for itself:
That up there, all that is Phil “The Thrill”. A teammate, a regular guy who loves and prefers to hang out with his squad, instead of offering speeches or answering questions from people he doesn’t know nor care about. That’s the essence of number 81. He cares about the ones who care about him, the people who mean a lot to him. That’s where his focus is.
He isn’t saying a word because he doesn’t need to. As Paul Steigerwald correctly assessed in the above video: Not even a million words could have explained what it means to the hockey world to have Kessel hoisting the Stanley Cup, a single year after being traded away from Toronto.
Kessel, then, is probably planning to put a little more salt in the wounds of the people who did him wrong when he was with the Leafs. See for yourself:
Phil Kessel says there's a "good chance" he'll bring the Cup to Toronto. Mayhem.
— Kristina Rutherford (@KrRutherford) June 15, 2016
Make sure you’ll have hotdogs, Toronto. And social media, better get your servers ready.
Once Burnt, Twice Shy
What’s wrong with being an introvert and why can’t people let public figures just be the humans that they are? Why are we divesting these people of their privacy and how do we justify these actions? Does it come with the exposing nature of being a professional athlete? Yes. Does that warrant treating them any differently than, say, a colleague at work?
Decide for yourself.
Don’t think for a second, that it doesn’t take a lot for somebody like Kessel to speak these words into microphones in front of a camera.
It’s a compliment to the Penguins’ fan base and the people of this city to see a guy like Kessel steadily escaping the shell he’d curled himself up into whilst going through hell in Toronto.
He’s been burnt — many times, in fact. Kessel, for lack of another candidate, was a scapegoat for long stretches of his career. That’s not the case in Pittsburgh, however. The knowledgeable fans’ and Kessel’s actions speak volumes, even if the forward’s voice doesn’t very often.
Wait, Is That Emotion?
Once he grabbed the Stanley Cup and hoisted it above his head on that stage in front of the 400’000 faithful present at the parade, you could sense the relief. Kessel’s never been happier in his entire career and he’s also never been more effective on the ice than during the last three and a half months.
It’s not just the leap back across the border from Toronto per se. Kessel feels genuinely comfortable with you, Pittsburgh. It’s so obvious in the way he’s opened up with reporters. Can you remember him showing any kind of emotion with the Leafs? Heck, even when he told the Toronto media what he makes of their comments regarding Dion Phaneuf, he almost came across as emotionally apathetic.
He didn’t seem angry or disappointed, even if he was. There was just no emotion in the way he communicated in Toronto.
Kessel is rightfully proud of the fact that he’d played for the Leafs and he was serious when he said he loved to play there. You’ve got every right to be proud of the fact that you’ve played for two Original Six franchises in your career before turning 28, even if it didn’t turn out very well for you.
Transition, Adjustment, Success and Fun
It took a little while. Kessel had to get his feet wet in Pittsburgh, but once that water didn’t turn out to be a tsunami (even when things weren’t going so well at the start of the season), he settled in and relaxed.
Kessel gained trust and confidence. You don’t have to be a psychologist to correlate that with the surroundings. The Penguins liked him right from the beginning of training camp. They lauded him for being a very good teammate and just an all-round funny guy.
Need proof of Kessel having fun?
Kessel is a good dude, he just doesn’t want everybody to get to the bottom of his personality. That’s a thing you have to respect – even if he’s a public figure, due to his profession. It’s pointless to even discuss this, because it’s a simple matter of common sense, human decency and professionalism to distinguish between the person and the matter – regardless of that matter’s nature.
The city and especially the media of Pittsburgh gave him a transition period, even though they’d expected at least ten more goals from “The Thrill” during the regular season, this man included. Everybody had skyrocketing expectations after learning about the trade on July 1, 2015 and in its aftermath. Expecting 40 to 50 goals after his transition to a new city was simply unfair.
Let’s not expect anything other than Kessel to be a very good companion for the team during the 2016/17 campaign and see where it takes him.
Because, he puts enough pressure on himself to perform in the first place. Secondly, is there anything left for him to prove after almost battling out Sidney Crosby for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Penguins’ playoff MVP?
The award would have been his, if not for the 8 Canadian votes in the election. Is it surprising, that they were voting for Crosby? Not since they’re coincidentally all writers working in Toronto. Kessel winning the Conn Smythe Trophy would have completely embarrassed them.
Nonetheless, they look foolish enough after being blindsided by a Stanley Cup in the hands of number 81. This championship is so rewarding for everybody on this team, but it’s even more rewarding for Kessel. How would you feel in his shoes today after everything he’s been through in his life?
There is no better ending to this drama than the one it came up with.
Welcome home, Phil.