The next time Phil Kessel comes back to Toronto, he might bring his friend Stanley with him.
“I probably will end up bringing it back there. Nothing for sure yet, nothing’s been decided, but I think there’s a good chance that’ll happen,” Kessel told Joey Vendetta on Sportsnet 590 The Fan on June 15.
“I have a lot of friends in Toronto. That’s kinda where I spend most of my time now.”
Well, Kessel’s Cup date with Toronto is now official, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported Thursday. (And Dion Phaneuf assures us he’ll be there, too.)
The player also vowed to return for Drake’s OVO Fest on the August long weekend.
Kessel, a native of Madison, Wisconsin, spent six seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Since being traded from the Maple Leafs to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Canada Day, Kessel described his life as a whirlwind.
And when the weather calmed, No. 81 was left hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time in his wild career. In putting up a team-high 10 goals and a team-high 22 points en route to the championship, the 28-year-old winger jumped into the Conn Smythe conversation and quieted his naysayers.
“A lot of change in my life. Obviously, I wouldn’t change this for anything,” Kessel said. “It’s the best hockey I’ve ever had, and it’s unbelievable.”
The Penguins’ “third line” of Nick Bonino, Carl Hagelin and Kessel — a trio comprised entirely of castoffs from other teams — led the team in production, but Kessel was quick to share credit with other members of the club.
“Everything worked out perfectly. Everything has to align to win the Cup. We had young guys step up, we always had four lines rolling, we had veteran leadership,” Kessel explained.
“Look at guys like Matt Cullen — he played unbelievable. Without a guy like that and [Eric] Fehr, we’re never where we are.”
When the HBK line stepped to the microphone during the Penguins’ Cup parade later in the day, it was all about Kessel.
Bonino: “What a pleasure it was to play with the legend Phil Kessel.”
Hagelin: “It’s a true honour. No one’s better than Phil. Phil the Thrill.”
A clean-shaven Kessel steared clear of the mic, embarrassingly shook his head, then raised Stanley once more.
— Philip Pritchard (@keeperofthecup) June 15, 2016
Amidst his remarkable playoff performance, Kessel found out he would not be added to Team USA — a straight-up snub to the eyes of many.
On Wednesday, Kessel said his teammate, Kris Letang, the guy who scored the Cup-winning goal, should have been invited to September’s tournament.
“He should be on Team Canada. He should be up for awards. He was that good this year,” Kessel said. Letang was not a finalist for the Norris Trophy.
“He’s an unbelievable player. Obviously, he’s our leader on the D core. He plays 25 minutes or 30 minutes a night. Without a guy like that, you have no chance, right? He carried us for a lot of the year.”
— Amanda Kessel (@AmandaKessel8) June 13, 2016
With his girlfriend and family in town, Kessel continued to party with the Stanley Cup Wednesday, as the Penguins embark on their championship parade through Pittsburgh.
He compared his last two NHL cities.
“Obviously [Pittsburgh] is a lot different from Toronto. Toronto is a great city, and it’s a sports city. So is Pittsburgh. It’s a different feel,” Kessel said. “The people here have been great, we have a great group of guys here, and it’s a pretty special year.”
So, Phil, any message you have for the people of Toronto?
“I always like to thank them. In my time there, they always treated me great,” Kessel said.
“I love the city there. I’ll always cherish my time there.”
I want to thank all of the Toronto fans for all the support you have shown me.I will miss you and this city and always consider Toronto home
— Phil Kessel (@PKessel81) August 23, 2015