Ten years ago Amanda Kessel woke to the sound of doors banging on their hinges and the smell of Pop-Tarts smoldering in the toaster. The family was dashing out the door, no time for a full meal, in a madcap frenzy of a family stretched too thin for time with too many places to be at once.
Amanda Kessel #8
It’s a typical morning in the lives of many hockey families, and the Kessels were, and still are, the quintessential hockey family.
Just a 10-minute drive away from their Madison, Wis., home, driveway to door, is the rink that the Kessels partially own. It’s a home-away-from-home for the youngest Kessel, a place where she has spent countless hours, either hanging out to watch her brothers on the ice or suiting up for her own game.
Fast-forward a decade, and the 20-year-old college sophomore is still going to that rink, even though much has changed around the Kessel household.
The summertime routine has taken on a somewhat more leisurely pace, with brother Blake on break from the University of New Hampshire and Phil visiting from Toronto where he stars with the Maple Leafs. Pop-Tarts are no longer — officially — a staple of the morning ritual. And the on-ice competition varies in pedigree, from Junior hockey all the way up to the NHL. But the one thing that hasn’t changed in all these years is that Kessel continues to faceoff against the boys.
“I always liked playing with boys a lot, just because, overall, boys are obviously bigger and stronger, and the competition is a little bit tougher,” says Kessel, who helped lead the Madison Capitols Bantam boys’ team to the state and regional championships in 2005-06.
“I don’t think I could skate with a better group of people just because it forces me to play at such a high pace and think the game faster. … It really [helped to] develop me and make me better.”
The proof can be found in her impressive résumé that already stretches line by line down the page of her player profile:
“As a junior with [Shattuck St. Mary’s], scored 44 goals and 56 assists for 100 points in just 34 games played en route to a U-19 national championship … Tallied 122 points in her final season at [SSM], the leader of the team in point by 61 … Member of both the United States Under-22 Team and Under-18 Team … With the U.S. Under-18 in 2009, was named the tournament’s most valuable forward when she scored six goals and 13 assists for 19 points to lead Team USA to a gold medal … Started her Gopher career with six points against Clarkson (10/1-2) to earn WCHA Rookie of the Week honors … WCHA Rookie of the Year.”
Those accomplishments and accolades may seem impressive until you consider that Kessel is only just now entering in her sophomore season at the University of Minnesota. So, for another few seasons, Gopher fans will watch as the maroon, white and gold flutters against her back.
With Kessel, the thing is that when you see her on the ice, regardless of the situation, you’re seeing the real-time development of a world-class talent. But to think that she’s done it all on her own or that there haven’t been hiccups along the way is perhaps a bit of a stretch.
That three elite athletes have come from the same family is sure to raise a few eyebrows and questions of “just what was in Mama Kessel’s cooking?” are going to come up in conversation.
Considering just how tight-knit and singularly focused the family is, this anomaly should come as no surprise. They learn from each other. She works on offensive moves with Phil. She picks up on tendencies of defensemen from Blake.
And although they’ve yet to play together in any official capacity — at 17, Amanda was invited to the U.S. Olympic Women’s Team tryouts, but was later cut — you get the feeling it won’t be too long because as with anyone who’s so entirely dedicated herself to an endeavor, Kessel is looking to the future.
For now, she’s looking to a national championship for Minnesota. She is also focused on the next Olympic team and subsequent national teams. And even though there’s some uncertainty there, with her talent, what’s certain is that she will for the next 10 years be one of the most exciting young players to watch.