All Phil Kessel did on Monday was make him and his Greta Garbo inclinations a bigger story than it had to be.
If he's okay with that, then I'm okay with that. And if he chooses not to speak on the upcoming series between the Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins today, I'm okay with that, too.
It'll just be a bigger story tomorrow. The league will get involved, the Leafs will have to take action, and eventually Kessel will emerge and utter a few sentences and it will be treated like the Gettysburg Address.
Poor fellow doesn't seem to understand the scrum will only get bigger, not smaller.
That's all fighting one's responsibilities ever does. It's like you can fight with family members about cutting the lawn and whose responsibility it is and why it didn't get done last weekend, or you can just cut the bloody lawn.
Now, I get that Kessel prefers not to speak publicly. From all accounts, those who know him well say he's a genuinely shy person, but otherwise generous and good to friends and family.
Brian Burke brought him to Toronto knowing Kessel had this dislike of dealing with the media, and hoped he'd learn to deal with it professionally.
It hasn't happened, which is too bad. This town, while not blessed with championship hockey clubs, has been uncommonly blessed with high-quality hockey players to deal with, a list that includes Johnny Bower, Darryl Sitter, Lanny McDonald, Borje Salming, Rick Vaive, Wendel Clark, Doug Gilmour, Mats Sundin and Curtis Joseph, to name a few.
A lot of times those people didn't want to discuss their thoughts with inquiring minds. Very few players actually enjoy the process. But they did so either because they understood it took a lot less time to do it than to fight it, or because they understood that as NHL players they share a collective responsibility to sell and grow the sport by being available to the media.
Again, I get that Kessel doesn't want to do it. Like I don't want to cut the lawn. So he leaves it for others to do, which is his business with them. He imagines that those he disdains on a daily basis will somehow be motivated to only be kind with him in print and on the airwaves.
Just don't sell me the poor Phil line. He doesn't have a speech impediment. This is not the King's Speech. He went to college. He has spoken many times over the years. Moreover, he is an uncommonly blessed athlete making incredible money to work a maximum of four hours a day because OTHERS who came before him did their part to sell the sport by doing their part.
You'll hear people say "All I care is that he scores goals" or "No wonder he doesn't want to deal with the same dumb questions over and over." Well, Kessel doesn't deal with the same dumb questions over and over. He leaves that responsibiity to his teammates and sneaks out the back door. People who mutter such inanities simply don't want to understand, anyways.
Moreover, after the latest NHL lockout, it was clear that both the owners and the players needed to get out there and sell, sell, sell to make up for lost revenues. Players are staring at a 20 per cent escrow hit this season and working together to increase hockey related revenues is in everyone's interest.
But Kessel wants to leave that up to other NHLPA members. Let Sidney Crosby do it (he does so unfailingly). Let Ryan Miller do it. Let Steve Stamkos do it.
Look, I'm not trying to bury Kessel here. I have no particular interest in hearing what he has to say. I know he has nothing to say.
But doing what he did on Monday is primarily a selfish act. He left it to his teammates to do that part of his job.
And all he did was make a giant story out of one that simply could have been neutralized by three minutes of mumbled words.
By wanting to avoid being the subject of a story he made himself THE story.
One final thought. Earlier this season, I wrote that trading Kessel sometime this season or before the 2013-14 season commenced is a very real possibility for a number of reasons, primarily the fact he will demand huge dollars - probably $8 million or more per season - on the basis of his statistical output and that might not be a price the Leafs will want to pay on a long term deal for a player who, while very talented, is fairly one dimensional.
Yeah, he's in the top 10 of NHL scoring. So are Marty St. Louis and Stamkos, and where are the Tampa Bay Lightning in the standings?
Of course, every time Kessel scored this season, the brave on Twitter would sarcastically chirp, "So do you still want to trade him?" Well, yeah, probably, because the money issue isn't just going to go away.
On the basis on Monday, do you think Kessel will want to re-sign in Toronto? Or play out his contract and walk as a UFA? If he does stay, can you imagine he'd take one dollar less that the maximum available in order to be compensated for the terrible ordeal he undergoes once a month by speaking to the media? You think he's considering a home town discount so he can talk to The Toronto Star every day?
People say it doesn't matter whether he talks. Well, for a whole bunch of reasons, it really does.