Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Kessel Run

Phil Kessel played nine games for
the Calgary Stampeders in 1982
It had been bugging me for a few months, but not enough to inspire even a Wikipedia search. Every time I heard the name Phil Kessel, I didn't think of the forward with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The player who the Leafs got from my Boston Bruins in exchange for the talent that helped them win the Stanley Cup two years ago.

Instead, I thought of this obscure quarterback who took a few snaps for the Calgary Stampeders in the 1980s. It must not be the same name, it couldn't be.

My curiosity was satisfied Tuesday night (April 9), when Amanda Kessel scored the game-winning goal for the U.S. women's hockey team against Canada in the Women's World Championship in Ottawa. During the broadcast, the announcers referred to her brother Phil, and their Dad who was also named Phil. That peaked my curiosity. Then they actually said he played quarterback in the CFL – for Calgary. All doubt had been removed.

Memories of a journeyman quarterback
Phil Kessel suited up for the Stampeders at a dark time in their history. They had been a solid team
under coach Jack Gotta in the late 1970s and early 1980s. However, they were in the same division as the Edmonton Eskimos who were a dynasty, winning five straight Grey Cups from 1978 to 1982.

After that success, the franchise went into decline, and had a parade of quarterbacks come through the turnstiles at McMahon Stadium. At the same time, CBC Calgary hosted a weekly show called "Catch 22" on Thursday nights which was about the Stampeders. The title referred to wide receiver Tom Forzani, who wore number 22. Incidentally, his son Johnny catches balls for the Stampeders now. Anyway, Gary Arthur hosted "Catch 22" and I recall one episode in 1982 where they talked about their quarterback situation and how this guy named Phil Kessel would get some playing time.

Phil Kessel plays for the Toronto
Maple Leafs. He looks like his dad.
Kessel had a good career at the University of Northern Michigan. He was: 1980 Associated Press All-American second-team quarterback; 1980 Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Year; and 1979 and 1980 team most valuable player. He was taken in the 10th round of the 1981 draft by the Washington Redskins, but didn't catch on.

Kessel played one season in Calgary, largely backing up Canadian quarterback Gerry Dattilio. He played nine games, completing 30 of 56 passes for 399 yards, four touchdowns, and four interceptions, with his longest completion going for 74 yards. I seem to recall liking what I saw when I watched him. According to Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, Calgary was not satisfied with his play and it motivated them to go out and sign Bernard Quarles, who had a serviceable CFL career, and Danny Barrett, who was one of the best. I do recall Quarles and Barrett coming to the Stampeders' camp in 1983, along with Ron Reeves, a quarterback who was cut.

Kessel was inducted in 1992 into the Northern Michigan University hall of fame.

The Kessel Run
When I asked my buddy if he knew anything about Phil Kessel the quarterback, he said: "All I know is Han Solo said the Millennium Falcon can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs." Not the same thing.

Parting shot
Even if Amanda Kessel broke my heart on the ice, and her dad didn't really pan out for my Stamps, I can still thank the trade involving her brother Phil for helping return the Stanley Cup to my Bruins.

1 comment:

  1. " I can still thank the trade involving her brother Phil for helping return the Stanley Cup to my Bruins"

    Uhh no you can't, If boston had of kept Kessel they would have multiple cups by now and would be the power house of the NHL like chicago. I know looking back at that trade that's the only way you can spin a positive about it but considering Bruins would have won the cup with Kessel that year and how terrible seguin has played in the playoffs and now being traded, this was a beyond terrible trade for Boston.