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Blake Kessel (Adirondack Phantoms)
Blake Kessel (Adirondack Phantoms)

The other Kessel: A Q&A with Blake Kessel Add to ...

How has your season gone in Adirondack?

Our season’s gone pretty well so far – obviously everything can always go a little better. It’s a development thing for me. I’m really excited that I get to learn here, especially from some of the guys that have been around the league and guys that have more experience.

It’s something that you’ve got to learn, that it’s definitely a different game from college hockey, and it’s been a fun experience so far.

Did you choose to play defence right from the beginning? How did you end up in different positions?

Actually I was a forward up until peewees and then [former Miracle on Ice defenceman]Bob Suter, who was Phil’s coach too, he just took me under his wing and said you’re going to be our defenceman of the family.

He converted me over to that. He’s someone that really pushed me early on to get better at just the little things. He obviously has so much experience and the Suter family has such talent, he really is brilliant. A lot of it helps, having that coaching at a young age.

And were you and Phil always different players growing up?

Well, Phil always had that talent that was unmistakable. He had the stickhandling, the moves – everything like that. He's always been that player at the top. Everyone kept saying you’re not going to be able to do it and he just kept working hard to prove everyone wrong. It’s been working out so far.

I was a little younger, I had to develop that stuff, I had to play a bit of a smarter game and just learn from other people and learn from other players and develop that way.

You were saying earlier that Phil is someone who you rely on a little bit – how often are you guys able to stay in touch during the season?

We try to every once in a while for sure. I know he’s got his busy schedule and I’ve got mine and things tend to overlap. But if I ever need something, that’s when I know he’s going to be there, no matter what. I can call him and he’ll get back to me as soon as he can – and he’ll be the first one there if I’m every in trouble or anything.

What does Phil say about playing in Toronto? I’ve talked to him about it, but he can be pretty shy and hard to read sometimes. What does he say to you and his other friends and family about the Leafs?

Honestly, he couldn't be happier with the situation he's in right now. We’ve loved hockey forever and he loves feeding off the passion of people. He's really excited to be in a spot like that, where fans are so into every game. It’s really kind of special up there to have so many people follow you and support your team. That’s something he really likes.

He loves the city. He’s developed some great relationships there – some of his best friends, guys that he’ll talk to every day in the summer, are on the team.

The only thing he has focused on the whole year is winning, basically, and getting the team back to the playoffs. That was his main goal this entire summer. That’s what he was aiming towards.

Who do you see him talking with all the time from the Leafs?

It’s different guys here and there. Armstrong. Once in a while he’ll talk to Phaneuf. He kind of talks to everyone a little bit.

Bozak, obviously. He talks to him a lot. Those two are pretty close. The Bert and Ernie thing [a comment made by teammate Mike Komisarek last year]was pretty funny. I enjoyed that one actually.

What’s it like for your family to watch what Phil’s done this season, becoming one of the NHL’s scoring leaders through the first few months of the year?

Obviously we really like to see that. I think it’s really finally starting to pay off for him. He’s really started working harder and harder over the last few years to devote himself to the game and to gets to the level. He wants to be there every year, that’s something that he’s had as a goal. And he’s worked really hard for it.

We’re really proud of him. It’s great when we all get to watch games on TV. Hopefully it won’t work out for either of us on the schedule [to see each other in person]– hopefully they’ll go deep in the playoffs and so will we. I’m hoping actually not to get to go to any of his games this year.

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