‘Phil Kessel is a Stanley Cup champion!’ — President Obama welcomes Penguins to White House (Video)


The Pittsburgh Penguins had their day at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Thursday, and it started in fine form.

“It is wonderful to be here, welcome to the White House,” President Barack Obama said in his opening remarks. “We are here to celebrate an extraordinary achievement — Phil Kessel is a Stanley Cup champion!”


What followed was the usual presidential fare — some jokes, some congrats and a bunch of player references (Sidney Crosby, Matt Murray and Kessel’s HBK running mates, Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino).

Obama also made mention of Pittsburgh’s last visit after winning the Cup in 2009, when Evgeni Malkin took a bunch of pictures on his flip phone.

Pittsburgh bid farewell to the outgoing president with (another) No. 44 jersey — the Pens gave him one seven years ago as well — and a mini-Stanley Cup.

So, Phil Kessel has apparently weighed in on Team USA’s loss


Phil Kessel‘ appears to be trending on Twitter.

Shortly after Team USA was officially eliminated from contention at the World Cup of Hockey, the prolific scoring forward made what you could easily determine to be a subtle but not-so-subtle jab on social media at the decision this spring to leave him off the roster.

(It must be noted that Kessel underwent hand surgery this summer, and he is working to return to the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup for opening night of the regular season. It’s been widely believed he was unavailable for this tournament.)

The result Tuesday opens the door to plenty of second-guessing and criticism for how this U.S. roster was built for this tournament. Did general manager Dean Lombardi and his group bring the best players to face the likes of Team Canada?

The blueprint was to build a team that was physical and gritty. But what about bringing in additional game-breakers that are dynamic point producers or strong in the puck possession game? Through two round robin games, Team USA scored twice, including a goal in what was essentially garbage time against the Canadians.

At least publicly, head coach John Tortorella, who will take his share of criticism in all this, wouldn’t change anything about the make-up of this team.


Tortorella defends Team USA’s roster, blames loss to Canada on ‘self-inflicted’ mistakes

Penguins’ Phil Kessel took the Stanley Cup to hospital for sick children

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 12:  Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with the Stanley Cup after their 3-1 victory to win the Stanley Cup against the San Jose Sharks in Game Six of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 12, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

In his first season with the team, Phil Kessel ended up being one of the Pittsburgh Penguins most important players on their way to winning the 2016 Stanley Cup.

Along with Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino, two players added during the season, they created the HBK line that would go on to be Pittsburgh’s most consistent and productive line, with Kessel leading the way with a team-best 10 goals and 22 total points in the playoffs.

It was a postseason performance that silenced pretty much all of the criticism that followed Kessel around during his time in Toronto and helped rewrite the story of his career.

On Monday, he had his day with the Stanley Cup and as expected he ended up taking it back to Toronto, the city he played in for six years before being traded in the summer of 2015.

There wasn’t much fanfare or media attention around his day in the city with the Cup, but we do know one place he took the time to visit: The Toronto Hospital for Sick Children.

Here is a video from the hospital.

Kessel played in Toronto between the 2009-10 and 2014-15 seasons. Even though he was the best player on the team and one of the most productive wingers in in the league during his time there he was a constant target for criticism (sometimes overly harsh criticism) because the team never won and he never seemed to have a good relationship with the local media. Still, it’s pretty clear the city itself and the community is important to Kessel.

Report: Phil Kessel undergoes hand surgery

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 23:  Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in action against the New York Rangers in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on April 23, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Phil Kessel had a very impressive post-season, scoring 10 goals and 22 points in 24 games, moving him into the Conn Smythe Trophy conversation.

The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup, and Kessel was a large part of their success playing on that vaunted HBK Line.

It’s been less than a month since the Penguins hoisted hockey’s silver chalice, but there was some summer news about Kessel on Friday.

This is interesting on a couple of fronts.

Kessel was originally left off the Team USA roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, but there had been talk that hip surgery for Ryan Callahan — and apparently five months recovery — could open the door for Kessel, especially given his work in the playoffs.

Now, will this reported hand surgery impact his chances of being named to the roster as a replacement after all? There has yet to be a timeline established for recovery, but the tournament begins in September.

The other?

Well, Kessel’s character has often been questioned and criticized, particularly when he was traded from Toronto to Pittsburgh last summer. Just typing ‘Phil Kessel’ and ‘character’ together into Google can be fascinating.

You, by now, know of this column in the Toronto Sun. Here’s a passage:

Sick of his act. Tired of his lack of responsibility. Unwilling to begin any reset or rebuild with their highest-paid, most talented, least-dedicated player. He didn’t eat right, train right, play right. This had to happen for Brendan Shanahan to begin his rebuilding of the Leafs. Separation between the Leafs and Kessel became necessary when it grew more and more apparent with time that everything Shanahan values was upended by Kessel’s singular, laissez-faire, flippant, mostly uncoachable ways.

So, based on the report above, Kessel was playing through an injury for the final three rounds of the playoffs. He was not only able to play, but he was highly productive.


Kessel’s ‘years in this league haven’t been easy, but now he’s got his name on the Cup’

Cooper: Kessel ‘probably doesn’t get near the respect he deserves’

Quick hits: Why Phil Kessel skipped a Stephen Colbert appearance

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 8:  (AFP OUT) Television personality Stephen Colbert during a taping of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" with U.S. President Barack Obama in Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University on December 8, 2014 in Washington, DC. This is President Obama's third appearance on "The Colbert Report" that will broadcast its final show on Dec. 18. (Photo by Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images)

Let’s gather a few smaller stories to save some time, shall we?

Nick Bonino apparently informed the Pardon My Take podcast that “The HBK Line” was supposed to appear on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The show sent a jet that can accommodate eight people, and Kessel wasn’t comfortable getting on a plane that small.

Rather than fussing with Carl Hagelin and Bonino about it, Kessel “just went to sleep and that was it.”

Splendid. We might need a Kessel reality show, which the sniper would probably detest.

  • In less amusing news, the Florida Panthers re-signed Connor Brickley.

This is what the one-year, two-way deal looks like:

  • Finally, the Edmonton Oilers re-signed Tyler Pitlick for one year.

Injuries have really stalled his career, so this could be an important “prove it” contract.

(Hopefully most of us hold safer jobs.)