Let me be clear at the outset that I do not want to get too far ahead of myself here. If Pittsburgh were to be awarded a franchise in the NWHL, there would be pressure on one young superstar in the league to leave the only NWHL team she’s known and move to play there instead.
Amanda Kessel is entering her second season in the NWHL after taking a year off last year to compete (and win) in the Olympics in South Korea. Assuming Phil Kessel is a still a Penguin by the end of this season and moving into next season, Penguins fans would likely lead a campaign to bring the gold medalist to Pittsburgh to team up to lead the city’s hockey clubs.
There are few players in Pittsburgh that capture the town’s spotlight better than the quiet, but deadly sniper in black and gold. Since arriving in Pittsburgh via trade after a shaky sendoff in Toronto, Phil Kessel has consistently proved a valuable asset to the Penguins, even coming close to winning the Conn Smythe trophy.
The outpouring of support for Phil Kessel in Pittsburgh has translated into not only an awareness of the talents of his younger sister, but also an excitement that may be unmatched for any other player in the NWHL, even those originally from the area.
If Amanda Kessel were to make the jump to a NWHL franchise, the league and the city would likely see enthusiasm at a whole new level, even beyond the reaction in Buffalo (and the league) when the Beauts signed Canadian superstar goaltender Shannon Szabados to a contract this year.