Famed hockey recruit adjusts to student life

Phil Kessel said that though it’s rare, it can be weird when Gophers fans recognize him on campus.

Emma Carew

Unlike many first-year students, the move to the University brought Phil Kessel closer to his family. Literally.

Kessel, one of three first-year students playing for men’s Gophers hockey this season, said he left his home in Madison, Wis., after his first year in high school to play for the U.S.A. Hockey National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.

He said the move from Ann Arbor to Minneapolis puts him a couple of hours closer to his family in Madison.

Just four games into the 2005-06 season, Kessel has already made three assists and a penalty shot. Still, he remains humble about his playing abilities.

“I just go out and play,” Kessel said. “If people think I’m good, that’s their opinion.”

Kessel said that if he had the choice, hockey would be what he’d do for the rest of his life.

“I love to play the game,” he said.

Like some first-year students, Kessel is adjusting to the University campus and residence hall life.

He said laundry probably is the biggest thing he’s adjusting to, and it’s hard to do regularly.

“I don’t know how the clothes get dirty so often,” he said.

Kessel said he’s used to living away from his family, but misses his mom’s beef stew and spaghetti.

“The dorm food’s not the greatest,” he said. “You can eat it, but it’s not like, Oh my God, I can’t wait to go eat in the dorm.”

Like all University students, Kessel has to attend classes, and, additionally, puts in eight required study hours at Bierman athletic complex each week.

“I’m not a big school person,” he said. “But I don’t mind going to class.”

He said he enjoys studying history and science, although he hasn’t declared a major yet, and called English his “downfall.”

Kessel said he had extra classes during his junior year of high school and took some classes online so he could come to the University a year early.

“He’s deceiving,” said first-year student Jeff Frazee, who has played on teams with Kessel for many years. “It seems like he’s not the brightest kid, but somehow he manages to get all A’s and B’s.”

Despite his age and being one of only three first-year students on the team, Kessel said, “I don’t feel like I have to prove myself.”

His teammates are “good guys,” he said, and they make it fun to come to the rink every day.

He said a combination of his friends attending the school, the coaching staff and the style of play drew him to the University over other schools.

At the University, “the rink’s great, the fans are great here,” he said. “It’s a great atmosphere to play in.”

Kessel said he loves the energy the fans bring to the games.

“It’s probably the best part of the game,” he said.

Kessel said it’s not often that fans recognize him around campus, but it can be a weird feeling when they do.

Beyond hockey, Kessel said, he’s not too different from other college students. He said he enjoys playing golf and video games and hanging out with his friends.

Kessel’s roommate, first-year student Ryan Stoa, said Kessel is a “funny and sarcastic kind of guy.” The two played on the National team together for two years.

“He locks the door all the time, even when he’s in (the room),” Stoa said.

Stoa and Kessel lightened the task of clearing the pucks off the ice after practice Wednesday by taking practice shots and playing games of hockey-baseball.

Finance senior and Gophers captain Gino Guyer said Kessel is “kind of quiet and shy in his own way,” but isn’t afraid to joke around with the rest of the team.

Across the board, Kessel simply loves the game.

“I can’t get enough of it,” he said.