THE BALLAD OF PHIL KESSEL


If you’re going to tonight's game between the Penguins and Arizona at PPG Paints Arena, the Phil Kessel tribute video gets shown during the first period.

I strongly suspect the ovation will be long, loud and raucous.

But if you’re present, do your part. Make sure that’s the case.

Kessel won two Stanley Cups as a member of the Penguins. He came through in the clutch. He could have been playoff MVP.

Kessel is the quirkiest Penguins legend ever. But he is a Penguins legend.

Kessel didn’t like to practice. He didn’t always get back on defense. He never hit, or blocked shots. He never took one-timers. Sometimes he passed too often, especially on the power play. He wasn’t badly out of shape, but he wasn’t a monument to conditioning, either.

But Kessel got the job done. He cared deeply about winning. Kessel doggedly stuck to his unique style of hockey, but he competed.

Kessel was a great teammate. The locker room loved Kessel. He was like a beloved cartoon character.

Kessel was never going to stay in Pittsburgh forever, or anywhere else. He’s 32, and Arizona is his fourth team. It’s clichéd to say, but Kessel comes with an expiration date. That was true in Boston, Toronto and Pittsburgh.

Kessel loves hockey. He loves poker. He loves Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh media, not so much. Kessel won’t be upset when I don’t stop by tonight to say hello.

But Kessel is Pittsburgh through and through. By way of reminder, he scored twice last night in Philadelphia as Arizona beat the Flyers, 3-1. Kessel has never seen the Flyers win the Cup.

2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six

2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six

Courtesy of Getty Images.

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