After much speculation about who would get picked last at the NHL All-Star Draft, Phil Kessel suffered the ignominy of being the final guy. For the concerned: he’ll live. In fact, I thought the only embarrassing thing about Kessel’s turn as Mr. Irrelevant was the way the NHL tried to pacify him. In an infuriating bit of babying, host James Duthie coaxed an ovation out of the audience, verbally consoled Kessel (who couldn’t have cared less) and then gifted him $20,000 to a charity of his choice as well as a brand new 2011 Honda CR-Z.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, the hundreds of children picked last in schoolyards across the country that day were given nothing, save a wedgie and an insecurity complex. Come on. These are NHL players, not grade-schoolers. Picked last does not mean picked on, and this was a room full of grown men capable of making that distinction. By reaching to console Phil Kessel, the NHL turned a relatable moment into another instance of millionaire ego-stroking.

Kessel didn’t need to be given any consolation prizes. He was already at the All-Star Game. Know who wasn’t? Tanner Glass. Where’s his car?

Simply being invited was good enough for Kessel, and he said as much to Duthie. Not mentioned, but also a fairly decent consolation, was the fact that Kessel makes $5.4 Million a year, and if he wanted a new car, he could have paid cash for one. I hate talking about player salaries, but Kessel really didn’t need that car, and you could tell by his reaction. Have you seen what happens when normal people are given a car? Their heart explodes. Did you see what happened when Phil Kessel was given a car? He smiled appreciatively, like he’d been given a gift card to Denny’s.

It was a startling lack of perspective for the NHL to A) showcase Kessel’s corresponding lack of perspective and B) take a very human moment like being picked last and turn it into another example of the divide between athletes and normal people. Most kids who are picked last can be consoled with a trip to Marble Slab Creamery. For a millionaire athlete, however, it had to be much more extravagant than that. Granted, they tried to balance it out by giving Kessel twenty grand to donate to charity, but that’s about as meaningful as being given a Christmas present by your baby brother. Yes, I’m sure he picked this out himself.

These guys are still role models, after all. Considering the audience for this event was likely a lot of younger kids, I would have much preferred for the NHL to simply show what a good sport Kessel was being. Everything after that was overkill.

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That said, if the event lost some of its relatability with this moment, we can thank Alex Ovechkin for saving the day. The highlight of the draft: Ovechkin’s sheer glee at Kessel sitting alone–an image so comical to him he snapped a picture with his phone. Hilarious. Part of Ovechkin’s charm is that, despite being one of the best hockey players on the planet, he’s also plainly human. His parents live with him; he often gets caught sneaking a peek at the ladies; he can’t dance. Heck, is there anything more human than the place where schadenfreude and camera phones intersect? That exact place is where the Internet was born.

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15 comments

  1. Wisp
    January 29, 2011

    I'm going to be honest. I disagree.

    I think it's an indication for how much respect the NHL's elite players have for Kessel. How much respect? Well, not much.

    That said the babying was kind of disgusting.

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  2. Harrison Mooney
    January 29, 2011

    Wisp, I don't think they were going out of their way to shame him. But that's another issue (except maybe in the title, but that's more for wordplay than a thesis statement).

    It appears we agree on the coddling.

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  3. Erik
    January 29, 2011

    I think the real winners were Phil Kessel's testicles. They got to make a donation to a cancer charity. The car though, the car was just silly.

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  4. Anonymous
    January 29, 2011

    This:

    http://i53.tinypic.com/rc91mu.gif

    Is the greatest thing to come from the draft. Couldn't agree more with your post, the babying was so awkward to watch and I honestly wanted to turn the TV off right then and there.

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  5. Anonymous
    January 29, 2011

    Beforehand I thought that it wouldn't matter. During the selection I wished they would have just announced the names and not had the players in the room. I found it uncomfortable to have the cameras gawking at the the players with ever increasing interest as the remaining numbers dwindled.

    I don't care if these guys are pros, you don't have national TV in your face on the playground when you are picked last.

    Let the captains pick, but please, let's avoid the circus next time.

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  6. Anonymous
    January 29, 2011

    To call him back down is worse than picking him last, when he clearly doesn't care it just forces embarassment on Kessel so that the NHL can try and look generous.

    If he doesn't need a car when this happens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAzuCHKkw3w

    He doesn't need a car for going to the All-Star game.

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  7. Wisp
    January 29, 2011

    "Wisp, I don't think they were going out of their way to shame him"

    Regardless, it is a symtom of haw little they think of him.. Their gut reaction was to pass on him.

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  8. Jake
    January 29, 2011

    i think his pride was hurt a little, he has been a superstar at every level and was finally taken last. im sure it wasnt a huge deal to him or anything but his pride had to have taken a hit(albeit a small one). the babying was stupid tho. i kinda get the charity but a car? cmon

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  9. Anonymous
    January 29, 2011

    riot on! pitb.
    mw

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  10. J.S. Topher
    January 29, 2011

    This MW Guy ^ is such a loser… Trolls every hockey related comment board I read.

    To the topic at hand though.
    I think it was clearly a li'l bit of a slap in the face for Kessel to be picked last. This was probably magnified by the fact that he was the only Leaf there. He's probably thinking in his head at that point, that if they didn't have a "One per team" rule, he might not have made it. Regardless, he's a pro and would have gotten over it, even if he'll be remembered for this until next year. Point is, it was the human side of the draft that had everyone dying to watch. That was THE All-star Game weekend moment that everyone was looking forward to. Well, aside from the Guardian Project… right? Right?
    Unfortunately, the NHL missed out on some big opportunity there by sugar coating the situation and in turn making every child ever picked last feel extra crappy about being that guy since they now know(or think so anyways) that even the pros can't handle some rejection here and there. Sad.

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  11. Jake
    January 29, 2011

    http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/allstar/poll/opinions/who-is-the-cleanest-player/

    this will help for your next wellwood update

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  12. Qris Johnson
    January 30, 2011

    Hearing Brian Burke's comments just made me mad. His player was selected last, and that reflects poorly on Burke, I guess, since Kessel was worth two first rounders to him, but Burke's suggestion that the format needs to change was just ridiculous.

    But if you don't think Kessel was a little miffed at being picked last, note that he's so intent on just getting the hell up on that bench that he doesn't catch Duthie calling him.

    Also, Kessel's thoughts when receiving the car: "No way this key is going to fit."

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  13. Brian
    January 30, 2011

    "But if you don't think Kessel was a little miffed at being picked last, note that he's so intent on just getting the hell up on that bench that he doesn't catch Duthie calling him."
    @ Qris Johnson

    I don't know if he was miffed or not but I doubt he could hear Duthie calling him. Kessel wasn't the only one not to respond to Duthie trying to get his attention. Speakers in these situations are set up to send sound to TV's and the audience. I have been in similar situations sitting behind the speakers yet in front of the crown and not being able to hear what people are saying.

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  14. brian
    January 30, 2011

    "crowd" not crown…..

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  15. Harrison Mooney
    January 30, 2011

    Brian, you've been in front of the crown? Are you an ambassador of some sort?

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