The saga of Phil Kessel is a tumultuous one for many Boston Bruins fans. After being drafted fifth overall by Boston in 2006 and beating cancer in his rookie season, winning the Masterton Trophy for perseverance and later playing a big part in the Bruins’ 2009 playoff run, he was traded off to Toronto in fall 2009. In return, Boston received a trio of high draft picks for the 2010 and 2011 selections, including the second overall pick in 2010 that would become Tyler Seguin. As a result, reception for the traded Kessel inside TD Garden morphed from booing, which he got in late 2009, to a chant of “Thank you, Kessel!”
But inside the Garden isn’t the only place where people can be reminded of Kessel and the trade that brought Seguin, Jared Knight and Dougie Hamilton into the black and gold fold. That reminder also comes on the horse racing track.
ThankyouKessel is the name of a horse in the harness racing circuit, which differs from the kind of riding seen at the Kentucky Derby because in harness racing, jockeys do not sit astride the horse. Owned by Carolyn Williston and trained by her boyfriend Joe MacIsaac, ThankyouKessel often races at the Woodbine track–located in Toronto.
Better yet, MacIsaac is a big Bruins fan and has been since he was a kid. When asked by a reporter if he named the horse because of what Kessel did before leaving Boston, he flatly replied that he named the horse for what happened after.
ThankyouKessel won a race this past Monday with excellent odds. You can see video of it below and, at about 2:20 in, the announcer literally chants “Thank you Kes-sel” instead of merely saying the horse’s name like he does for other racers. He chants it again at least three more times before ThankyouKessel wins by about two and a half lengths.
This is not the first time a race horse has been named for an NHL player because apparently one was named for Sean Avery, but it is the first time I know of a horse being named for a sports transaction–and an announcer chanting the name during a race.