It is perhaps an unprecedented situation across sports. Some athletes earn immunity from criticism over years of success or community service, but no athlete in recent memory has elicited such fervent protection from fans as Pittsburgh Penguins winger Phil Kessel. Not only is Kessel above criticism to many, reporting news regarding Kessel invites intense criticism of the reports.
This week the lid was blown off the situation and social media nearly melted.
The first report of organizational unhappiness with Kessel was courtesy of Pittsburgh Hockey Now’s Matt Gajtka, on May 10. Gajtka reported decision makers in the Penguins organization felt let down by Kessel, whom they believed prioritized his consecutive games streak over the team. Read the full, original report here.
The social media blowback was stiff and immediate. PHN and Gajtka were accused by dozens (and dozens) of responders of “trying to run Phil out of Pittsburgh like the media did in Toronto,” of having an agenda, or of making it up.
What a dumb trolling article.
— Wade (@burton474) May 10, 2018
What’s up Toronto media?
— Thomas Lyall (@TomTheLoud) May 10, 2018
On May 23, the second report dropped. This time courtesy of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook. Cook reported the same negative sentiments from inside the organization and received a hurricane level pushback from Penguins fans (and some professional media). Here is Cook’s column.
FWIW, I’m not going to read the column about Phil Kessel today. The writer, in this instance, has proven time and time again that he’s far less than credible when it comes to hockey reporting.
— Mike Necciai (@Michael29Angelo) May 23, 2018
I’d be more inclined to believe this if there wasn’t an article written *before the season even stated* that lit Kessel’s funeral pyre in the most bizarre way possible. https://t.co/fgLQXoIcLd
— Jesse Marshall (@jmarshfof) May 23, 2018
The lid was blown off the situation the following day. The third and final report came via Penguins radio flagship WXDX talk show host Mark Madden, on his radio show. Madden expounded on the Penguins decision maker’s disappointment with Kessel and reported that both sides may welcome a trade. Not one to back down, Madden steered into the skid.
The Penguins are trying to trade Phil. Fans are blaming the media, not the Pens. Which shows how contemptibly stupid most fans are.
— Mark Madden (@MarkMaddenX) May 25, 2018
Pittsburgh Hockey Now will continue working on the story, including seeking comment from all involved. However, one thing should be clear to fans, this is a real and unfolding story which could have huge ramifications.