TORONTO - Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel often appears shy, quiet, reserved — at times almost uncomfortable when talking in a media scrum.
He admits his answers aren't that great. He's not sure why reporters want to speak to him every day. And he certainly didn't appear to be in the mood for comment after Toronto was shelled by the lowly Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
However, there was no avoiding the phalanx of cameramen and scribes parked near his dressing room stall at Air Canada Centre after Monday's practice.
The issue of his availability was the topic du jour after a beat reporter sent out a tweet Saturday saying that Kessel declined to talk after the 6-2 loss and "angrily stormed off."
As he approached the large scrum Monday, Kessel joked about what the line of questioning might be. He then put on a blue hat, smiled and took questions for about five minutes.
"You know I don't speak all the time," he said. "You guys know that. Obviously you don't want to lose like that to anyone in this league. We've lost two in a row. It was a tough game."
Jonas Siegel, a Leafs beat reporter for TSN Radio and TSN.ca, sent out a second tweet from his verified account describing his interaction with the Toronto forward.
"Kessel's exact reaction when asked for comment: "Get away from me," Siegel tweeted.
Kessel told reporters Monday that he doesn't think there is a need for daily comment.
"I think I've talked a decent amount," he said. "I'll come out sometimes to talk, but sometimes I don't. But I don't have too much to say about losses like that."
NHL players are generally expected to make themselves available for media interviews and requests are usually accommodated. Head coach Randy Carlyle made it clear what the team's expectations are on the issue.
"It's the players' responsibility and it's our organization's responsibility to make sure everybody is available to the media," Carlyle said. "It's spelled out in training camp, it's spelled out on a day-to-day basis that when you're called upon, you're to be made available, simple as that. That's what we support."
Leafs forward Nazem Kadri said Kessel is quite talkative on the ice and is much different when engaging with teammates.
"He's pretty laid back and easy going," Kadri said. "He's an easy guy to talk to, a really nice guy. When he's put on the spot, I think he just shies away a little bit. I think he's starting to get the hang of it.
"He likes guys he can trust and when he doesn't feel like he can trust anybody, he gets a little bit shy and a little bit timid in that regard. It's really nothing personal."
The media can be more demanding in Toronto than some other cities given that it's a large, hockey-mad market with four daily newspapers and two all-sports radio stations. Big-name players are often asked for comment even though they sometimes weigh in with stock answers or cliches.
Kessel, who's off to a great start with 22 points in 18 games, said he doesn't read the media reports, but added he loves the team, fans, organization and the city.
"I don't say a whole lot," he said. "But I try to leave it on the ice."
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