After winning his third Stanley Cup title — this time as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights — Phil Kessel took the opportunity to take his latest shot at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night after starring for them years ago. Kessel, 35, played for the Maple Leafs from 2009 to 2015 and became a somewhat polarizing figure during his tenure with the team.
Dealt to Toronto in a blockbuster trade with the Boston Bruins, the Maple Leafs experienced little success around him. The Maple Leafs made the playoffs just once in Kessel’s six seasons with the team, and Kessel himself faced individual criticism for a lack of winning and a perceived lack of commitment to physical fitness.
While speaking to Toronto-based reporters on Tuesday night, Kessel made certain to remind the city that he hadn’t forgotten what was said about him during his time there.
“Takes me back to my Toronto days. You guys said I couldn’t win, and now I’m a three-time champ,” Kessel said, per Mike Stephens of The Hockey News. “Remember that.”
Kessel was traded from the Maple Leafs to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2015, and he would go on to play on the Penguins teams that won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.
This time around, an aging Kessel’s contributions to the Golden Knights’ Stanley Cup win were more muted: He scored just 14 goals in 82 games this season and played only four games in the playoffs before being a regular healthy scratch.