Eight words Toronto Maple Leafs fans never thought they’d read: Phil Kessel is owning the NHL right now. He’s leading the Pittsburgh Penguins in playoff points, is probably going to receive the Conn Smythe Trophy, and is one win away from the Stanley Cup. What’s more, the media is sort of in love with him.
And I’m so salty I could turn a lake into an ocean.
See, while Kessel didn’t have the coziest relationship with the reporters or fans during his tenure with the Buds, a fringe contingent of Leafs Nationers (this writer included) worshipped the winger. In his camera-shy, cookie-loving, mumblecore-y ways, we saw an awkward Internet deity — and perhaps a part of ourselves.
Behold the Temple of the Phil, a subreddit originally erected by Leafs fans, where to this day pious Deciphils go to exalt the virtues of the all-knowing, all-loving Phil Kessel. To get a sense of how seriously these Kesselites take their manatee-like saviour, just read the site’s intro paragraph: “The Phil is not a person, nor is he a god. He is a way of life that we should all aspire to be. Simply enjoying the gifts granted by The Phil is not enough. You must follow the teachings of The Phil in your every day life.”
If you wish to become a Deciphil, you must follow several steps along a lengthy approval process. The strict screening is necessary to prevent wicked followers of Seguin from infiltrating the temple. (Perish the thought!)
The Temple is a place for devotees to share the teachings of The Phil and celebrate His divine beauty.
Many a Deciphil has hastened to build shrines in His honour.
Since Kessel was shipped to the Steel City 11 months ago, Pennsylvanians have taken up The Phil’s mission. They’ve even built their own altars for Him, replete with offerings of Yeungling craft beer and hot dogs (though it could use more blue Powerade).
Now that he’s escaped the scrutiny of Toronto’s media fishbowl — and the pressure of carrying an entire broken franchise on his shoulders — The Phil has been free to let his stumbling, bumbling holiness shine freely. And it appears mainstream America has begun to take notice. Last month, he won hearts and minds when brilliantly mistaking a question from NBC’s Pierre McGuire about his lung capacity for an insult about his halitosis.
There’s even a superb webcomic, The Phil, devoted to his blessed life.
So, the secret’s out. The Phil is no longer the introverted little secret of lowly beLeafers; Philgrims now roam all of North America. Should we hang our heads in sorrow? Upon further deliberation, I say thee nay! Let us accept our new brethren with open arms and share with them our $2 hot dogs. For it is our duty to spread the sacrament of His Pudginess to those we come across, to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Seguin to Kessel. May Lord Stanley’s Cup take its rightful place in the benevolent and clammy hands of Our Saviour.
Praise be to The Phil, The Thrill, and the Holy Mackinaw. Amen.