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NBC Olympics thinks Jake Gardiner is a Kessel

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Does Amanda have a second brother in the NHL?

Los Angeles Kings v Toronto Maple Leafs
Is this man Amanda Kessel’s brother?
Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

As part of their leadup in coverage to the Pyeongchang Olympics, NBC made a promo video with various women’s hockey players talking about the best rivalry in hockey: Team Canada vs. Team USA.

The tweet is geoblocked; if it doesn’t work for you, there’s a Streamable version of the video here.

At first look, this seems like your average Olympic pump-up piece. Players like Meghan Duggan and Meghan Agosta attempt to describe the feeling of playing against their greatest rivals, the only national team to equal their own in skill, in as delicate terms as possible. These carefully given media soundbytes are interspersed with clips of everything from hard hits to (near as I can tell) attempted murder, in the true spirit of USA vs Canada games. It took the keen eye of one of PPP’s masthead members to notice something very, very important: according to NBC Olympics, Jake Gardiner is the fourth Kessel sibling.

Yes, that photograph shown while Amanda Kessel talks about her brother Blake’s marriage to former Canadian national team defender Courtney Birchard (at about one minute in) is of neither Blake Kessel nor Courtney Birchard. It’s a photograph from Gardiner’s wedding this summer; the same picture was posted on his Instagram.

(Side note: as Leafs fans, we can agree there has never been a more quintessentially Jake photograph, right? This picture truly captures his essence.)

It is theoretically understandable how this happened. When you Google Image search “blake kessel wedding” the results look like this:

There’s that wedding photo, right at the top of the results. Plus, Courtney Birchard and Lucy Gardiner aren’t particularly dissimilar looking—at the very least, they’re both blonde.

Courtney Birchard, formerly of the Brampton Thunder, circa 2016-17 CWHL

This picture is from Birchard’s last season with the Brampton (now Markham) Thunder of the CWHL. She’s now playing in Slovakia for a team called Ice Dream Kosice, presumably to be near her husband, who plays for HC Kosice.

I’m going to assume that whoever put together this montage did a quick Google search, saw a wedding picture of two people who looked mostly right, and grabbed it without asking any extra questions. This is, uh, perhaps not the right tack to take in the future, NBC. Perhaps when including pictures that are supposedly of family members, the fact-checking process should consist of more than “what does the Internet say?” That way lies a slippery slope, especially if an NBC intern unknowingly stumbles upon somebody’s Sochi Olympics fanfiction and draws their own conclusions.

Of course, I could be wrong! Perhaps Gardiner is a long-lost Kessel, like the Princess Anastasia, only if you swap in Wisconsin and Minnesota for the Romanovs and the Bolsheviks. In that case, I’d like to apologize to Lucy Gardiner for neglecting to tell the world about her career on the Canadian national team.

s/t to Gunnar Carlsson, who brought this to my attention, and in doing so brought me unreasonable amounts of entertainment