Kessel Keeps Right On Ticking

Arizona Coyotes Star Takes Latest Milestone In Stride

Phil Kessel may be a man of few words, but he’s certainly not short on accomplishments. 
The first rookie to be awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for his perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game, Kessel has added an Olympic silver medal and two Stanley Cups over the span of his career.
 
Most recently though, the 32-year-old forward played his 1,000th career game, a feat that only 46 other American players have accomplished.
 
Ask what reaching this milestone meant elicited a short-worded, humility-laced answer. Kessel’s here because he loves to play, and the accolades are just a nice bonus.
 
“It’s a lot of games and you never know if you’re going to get there,” he said. “I’m fortunate enough and I’ve been pretty lucky. I love to play the games; I love to help my team win.”
 
And he’s done just that, helping his teams to winning records in nine of his 13 seasons. Through his time in the NHL, Kessel played 222 games with the Boston Bruins, 446 with the Toronto Maple Leafs and 328 for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Most of his success came in Steel City, which included four winning seasons and two back-to-back Stanley Cups shared with then-assistant coach Rick Tocchet.
 
Kessel and his former coach were reunited this season, with Tocchet now at the helm of the Arizona Coyotes. Just four games in with the Coyotes, Kessel was able to share yet another milestone with his coach.
 
“It’s a hell of an honor, like any player that’s done that,” Tocchet said prior to Kessel’s 1,000th game against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night. “The consecutive games are, to me, a bigger one. That’s tough to do. It’s a special thing. You know Phil, he doesn’t say much about it but people notice that stuff.”
 
This game was also the Madison, Wis., native’s 778th consecutive game - or something like nine straight seasons - which constitutes the seventh-longest streak in NHL history and third longest active streak, trailing Patrick Marleau (789) and former Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle (801).
 
While his coach might think that’s impressive, Kessel doesn’t put much weight behind it. When asked if his ironman streak meant anything, his response was “not really.”
 
“I enjoy playing the game, so that’s the fun part. I don’t really like to miss them,” Kessel said. “There’s some nights along the way that you get some bumps and bruises, but I always like to play. Whenever I can play, I’ll be out there no matter what.”

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