Who would’ve thought it? Phil Kessel, the man who is most famous for his hot dog eating and soda drinking off the ice, is set to break Keith Yandle’s iron man record when he skates in his 990th straight NHL game on Tuesday.
Ahead of the game, some of his former teammates shared their opinions and favorite stories of the 35-year-old.
“If you had told me when I first met Phil that he would set the NHL’s iron man record, I would have called you absolutely crazy. I would have said you are out of your mind. I would have taken whatever odds were on it at the time,” said Shane Hnidy (Golden Knights teammate).
“No, he’s not the guy diving in front of shots. No one is going to claim he’s a defensive specialist, but there are a lot of elite players that fall into that category. But he’s also a guy who’s not afraid to go into the corners,” he added. “You don’t put up the points that he does without going to certain areas of the ice where there are battles.”
To Hnidy’s point, any criticism about his style of play should be ignored. If all he did was avoid the puck, play selfishly and give 50% effort, he would not be the player he is today. He would not have 958 points in 1,211 games, and he would not be one of the most beloved teammates in recent history.
“There’s a reason everyone lights up when they talk about Phil Kessel,” Nick Bonino (Penguins teammate) said. “When he’s in the room, guys rip on him and he rips on them, which I think is important in a good teammate. He wasn’t closed off like he can be in interviews.
“Unique. One of a kind. Great guy and a good friend,” he added.
Kessel has spanned his playing career across Boston, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Arizona and now Vegas. He beat cancer at the age of 19 and gave back a ton. He played a huge part in back-to-back Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh, and he still finds a way to put the puck in the net and a smile on people’s faces.
“When I first met him, he was just a normal guy. Loved to play golf, so one of the first days that we were together, we went out and played,” said Clayton Keller (Coyotes teammate). “That’s when you can really get to know someone, on the golf course. And he was super-fun to golf with. It’s nice because it’s away from hockey and you’re just talking about life and things of that nature.”
“He also loves to chirp, and he can back it up. He’ll tell you he’s a bad golfer. But he’s very good,” he added.