If you played word association with a hockey fan and offered up “Phil Kessel,” there would be a number of reasonable answers.
Speedy would be a good one. Sniper. Penguins. Leafs. Wrister. All of these make sense, but the most likely word you’d be liable to hear is “hotdogs.”
That’s because over two years ago Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons accused Kessel of getting a hot dog “almost every afternoon” as a core part of his argument that the Toronto Maple Leafs were sick and tired of the winger. The column was quickly and brilliantly debunked by the SB Nation site Pension Plan Puppets, but the link between Kessel and tubular meat has continued to this day.
Fans have gotten tattoos of Kessel riding a massive hotdog, teammate Evgeni Malkin has ribbed him good-naturedly about it, the joke has inspired Halloween costumes and fun has been had by all. Meanwhile, all Kessel has done is win Stanley Cups, proving definitively that he can be a core piece of a championship club regardless of whether he dabbles in street meat or not.
On Monday, Kessel leaned into the joke brilliantly by posting a photo of him eating hot dogs out of the Cup on the golf course.
A post shared by Phil Kessel (@phil_kessel_81_) on Aug 14, 2017 at 2:08pm PDT
Because Kessel looks like a guy who could conceivably be tempted by the odd hot dog, the joke continues to have legs. Because his success with the Penguins is beyond reproach, he’s got nothing to lose by being in on it.
On Monday, he showed what the best version of that looks like.