Ex-Toronto Maple Leafs’ player Phil Kessel is now a three-time Stanley Cup champion. He was part of a Vegas Golden Knights team that crushed the surprising Florida Panthers to win in five games. However, of interest to Maple Leafs’ fans was his reaction to the win.

He didn’t miss a chance to remember what obviously has been etched in his memory about the Maple Leafs. That’s his mistreatment by the Toronto media. It obviously remains on his mind.

Related: Could Phil Kessel Be a Valuable Addition to the Maple Leafs?

Kessel Is Unconventional, But He Is a Winning NHL Player

Kessel has been unconventional since he first came to the NHL. His appearance seems more like a guy who watches hockey rather than plays it. He also, according to Toronto media, has a love for hot dogs that became iconic in Toronto lore.

Yet, Kessel has defied expectations throughout his 17-season NHL career. He’s also like most players who have donned the Blue and White uniform of the Maple Leafs. He’s had to endure what seems like the relentless critical scrutiny of long-suffering Maple Leafs’ fans and Toronto’s hockey media.

Toronto is a funny team to cover as a writer. There seems to be a segment of the media who (like myself) are supporters (and fans) of the team and who try to share the news about the team. There also seems to be another smaller group who believes you can’t cover the team honestly without being critical of the team, its players, and it’s leadership decisions. In fact, that second group often critics the first group by calling them out for being in the pockets of the team.

Kessel Played Six Tough Seasons with the Maple Leafs

After his six-year tenure with the Maple Leafs, Kessel’s journey led him to be a three-time Stanley Cup winner. Last night he celebrated his most recent victory with the Vegas Golden Knights. And, again, not to forget the criticism he received in Toronto, Kessel once again took the opportunity to troll his detractors in the Toronto media.

When Kessel arrived in Toronto after being traded from the Boston Bruins, he was immediately immersed in pressure. A passionate fan base and a sometimes unforgiving Toronto media wasted no time in scrutinizing his moves. Because Kessel had a unique playing style; but, mostly because he didn’t look like a prototypical hockey player, he was an easy target.

Toronto Sun writer Steve Simmonds infamously penned a column that featured a since-debunked story about Kessel indulging in a daily routine of eating a hot dog. People still believe that story about Kessel, whether it was accurate or not.

Related: Revisiting Ex-Maple Leafs Mikheyev’s 1st Season in Vancouver

Kessel’s Time Since Toronto Has Been Easier and More Successful

In 2015, Kessel was traded to the Penguins. With the move, he left behind the Maple Leafs’ pressure-cooker environment. Kessel went on to prove those who said he couldn’t win wrong. He became a valuable contributor to the Penguins’ Stanley Cup success with back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and 2017.

Hence, when he brought the Stanley Cup to Canada, he playfully responded to the hot dog controversy by filling the Cup’s bowl with hot dogs during the celebrations.

After Pittsburgh, this season Kessel joined the Golden Knights. While he didn’t see much action during the recent Stanley Cup Playoffs, his presence during the team’s regular season contributed to their historic victory. It was the franchise’s first championship and it came with a 9-3 blowout over the Florida Panthers in Game 5.

One More Victory Lap for an Aging Kessel

After last night’s game, Kessel wouldn’t resist the chance to take another dig at the Toronto media. He reminded them of their doubts about his ability to win and noted that it “takes me back to my Toronto days. You guys said I couldn’t win, and now I’m a three-time champ.”

In a perfect irony, there’s been some rumour that the Maple Leafs should seek to sign Kessel as a bottom-six player. Wouldn’t the irony of irony be that he was signed and he celebrated his fourth Stanley Cup win next season in his former home.

It would be one of the best “I told you so!” stories – ever.

Related: So What’s the Deal with Maple Leafs’ Coach Sheldon Keefe?

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