The numbers are too daunting to ignore. Tom Kostopoulos, at 38-years old, racked up 24 goals, 54 points and played in 74 games for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this past season.
All of those figures led the team.
However, when Kostopoulos was contemplating on whether or not to return for the 2017-18 campaign, it wasn’t all about the stats. Kostopoulos’ family weighs in on the decision just as heavily on his mind as his on-ice performance.
Clearly, he has their blessing to play a 19th season of pro hockey,
“I think if it didn’t work for them, I would hang ‘em up,” Kostopoulos said. “But they’re all for it, and that keeps it fun for me.”
Kostopoulos’ wife, Lisa, and children, Lily and Luc, are often seen around Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza and the Penguins practice facility at the Toyota SportsPlex during the season. For the kids, there hasn’t been a time in their lives when dad wasn’t playing hockey. Even though a life around the rink has become status quo for them, he still seeks their opinion and wants to know how they feel about living half their years in Canada and the other half in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“When we’re here, we’re keeping our kids away from their grandparents and a lot of their friends, too,” Kostopoulos said. “I also try and explain to them that this lifestyle gives me time with them most afternoons, although I miss a lot of their sports games and activities on the weekends when [the Penguins] play. I get most weeknights with then, I can pick them up from school and stuff like that, but when hockey ends, that can change.”
All of these factors play into Kostopoulos and his family’s thought process when they sat down to discuss what the next step for him was going to be. A verdict was met, and now Lily and Luc will be seen hanging around with their dad after games for at least one more year.
The family isn’t the only one that grabs Kostopoulos’ attention, either. When he’s not at home, Kostopoulos is spending serious quality time forming bonds with his teammates. Hard practices, long bus rides and grinding through three-in-threes with one another fosters another family atmosphere for the Penguins’ captain.
Tom Sestito said after Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s final playoff game that he’d be in Kostopoulos’ ear to try and convince him to come back. Barry Goers claimed that whenever someone presses for an answer on Kostopoulos’ future, the veteran has “one of the best poker faces” around. Those two and many others got a chance to make their pitch to T.K. before everyone dispersed for the summer.
“Once our season was over, we got together a few times as a team. Tom was in my ear a little bit, and some of the other guys were saying why quit now? My teammates’ perspective weighs a lot in my decision.
“If they were looking at me like, ‘Eh, maybe it’s time to go,’ I’d probably give it up. But it’s great to have their support.”
So with the support of his two families, Kostopoulos made it official on Monday morning that he’d be returning for another year with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The challenge now becomes waiting for his 19th season to start.
“It’s boring right now, now that hockey’s over,” he lamented. “I like coming to the rink every day, I like being around the guys and being around the sport. I’m happy to be signed to back.”
Season ticket packages for the 2017-18 season are on sale now, and available by calling the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at 570-208-7367.
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