A controversy has rocked the Maple Leafs on the eve of what should have been the most joyous of moments – returning to the playoffs after a nine-year wait.
All of a sudden, one of the team’s top snipers, Phil Kessel, went silent and dodged the media the day before the team was set to fly out to Boston for game one.
Kessel’s surprising change of pace will no doubt leave the Leafs reeling, and couldn’t have come at a worse time, as “top” centre Tyler Bozak struggles through an upper-body injury.
“His eloquent verbiage is, without question, one of his finest attributes,” said Dion Phaneuf, the second most well-spoken player on the team.
“For Phil to abandon such magnificent vocal leadership at our greatest time of need is a treason from which we may never recover,” he continued.
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Hah. Okay, back to reality.
After the hockey writers in the Centre of the Universe descended on Phil Kessel for not speaking to the media following a practice, we’re left with one nagging question:
Just what exactly did they expect?
Was what Kessel did right… or a smart thing to do? No. He just made things worse for himself in the long run.
But do we really need to drag him over the coals for it? Also no.
I suppose Toronto media has shown a certain fondness for well-spoken athletes. Mats Sundin was quite well spoken, and quite well treated as a result. R.A. Dickey has stolen the hearts of local writers – he even wrote a book himself!
But just because a guy doesn’t feel like talking doesn’t mean he should given such a hard time, even if it is part of his job (we all conveniently fake a sick day once in a while, no?)
If we really want accountability we should focus our frustrations on something more practical.
For example, why aren’t referees forced to speak with the media after games?
Or better yet, when Gary Bettman hosted an XM radio show, why were all the callers pre-screened with nothing negative to say?
Those are the cones of silence we should question. Not why some shy, distant 25-year-old hockey player is trying to avoid giving boilerplate answers to a swarm of people he doesn’t like.
Kessel’s gonna Kessel. Just leave it at that and move on.