In the most recent edition of The Hockey News, Ryan Kesler graces the cover next to the caption “The making of a monster.”
The story talks about Kesler’s aggressive nature and loosely compares his maturation as a player to Stan Mikita’s – a two-way force with the Chicago Black Hawks in the 1960s and ‘70s who morphed from a penalty minute king to a Lady Byng winner.
Not that Kesler will be winning the award for most gentlemanly player anytime soon. One reason why Henrik Sedin was such an easy choice to replace Roberto Luongo as captain of the Canucks was because of Kesler’s unpredictability and that he could thrust unwanted attention on himself or the team at any given moment.
The THN story delves into this side of Kesler deeper, but while he is evolving into a goal scorer who will win a Selke Trophy one day, he has also created a few enemies in the NHL along the way.
Perhaps the most noteworthy of those is the ongoing tiff between Kesler and Columbus’ R.J. Umberger. Linemates at Ohio State, Kesler and Umberger actually got along at one time and were both first round selections (Umberger in 2001, Kesler in 2003) by Vancouver. But when Kesler was picked after his freshman season, he signed with the Canucks right away and got on with his professional career.
That same off-season, Umberger was looking to commence his pro career, but his party believed Kesler signed a deal that was below market value, so it was used as leverage for a bigger contract for Umberger. While Umberger’s side viewed the tactic as taking care of business, Kesler didn’t appreciate being used as a barometer by his old mate and a rivalry was born.
Whenever the two meet, you can often notice animosity in the faceoff circle and the two came to blows in a January, 2009 game.
Umberger, of course, missed the entire 2003-04 season and was traded to the Rangers in March of 2004, but failed to agree on a contract there and signed with Philadelphia as a UFA in the off-season. Kesler has continued to improve his lot in Vancouver and was rewarded with a six-year, $30 million contract extension last season.
And now he’s putting up a monster season – one that has landed him on the cover of The Hockey News.
This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.