by Nick Hart | AHL On The Beat
Milestones are usually a point of celebration for most players. Reaching a significant mark in one’s career triggers the joy of fans, draws the admiration of peers and a cause for celebration by the one achieving the milestone.
That’s the case for most players. Not for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin Tom Kostopoulos.
Now in his 18th season of professional hockey, Kostopoulos has made achieving milestones seem routine. Even his reaction to becoming the 91st player in American Hockey League history to reach 500 career points with a goal at Binghamton on Jan. 28 was somewhat subdued.
“It was cool,” Kostopoulos told reporters after the game in which he reached 500 points. “It wasn’t a very big goal, but it’s nice to get it and move on.”
The thing is, Kostopoulos will just be moving on to the next milestone. He’s a mere three tallies away from 200 goals in his AHL career, one helper away from 400 professional assists, and approaching his 600th game with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton franchise. Furthermore, in this season alone, Kostopoulos has not only achieved 500 AHL points, but also 300 AHL assists and 400 points just with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Last year, Kostopoulos joined an exclusive group by becoming the fourth player in hockey history to have played in 600 games at both the NHL and AHL levels.
When reminded of this barrage of round numbers on (or soon to be on) his résumé, Kostopoulos merely gives a shrug.
“It just reminds me that I’m getting old,” he said with a laugh.
Kostopoulos’ teammates, however, are a little less dismissive of his accomplishments. Sahir Gill, who had the primary assist on the goal that gave his captain point No. 500, said that these figures speak not only to Kostopoulos’ skill and playing ability, but also his passion for the game.
“He enjoys doing those little things that make him successful,” Gill said. “I’m sure it is not easy to play as well as he has been playing at his age, but he looks my age out there producing at such a high level. He works so hard and is such a perfect example for any young player to come into and watch him day in and day out to see what it takes to thrive and establish yourself.”
Perhaps a more cynical-minded person could look at Gill, an undrafted player twelve years younger than Kostopoulos, and think a guy like that would undoubtedly be impressed by Kostopoulos’ recent feats. But Gill’s sentiments are echoed by Penguins assistant coach Chris Taylor, another one of those 91 players who has 500 AHL points to his name.
Taylor believes Kostopoulos’ on-ice success stems from the 38-year-old’s unshakable bond with the game. The individual accomplishments are nice, but Taylor recognizes him as another guy who wants nothing more than to come to the rink every day and simply play hockey
“He’s a phenomenal leader, but he’s a kid at heart,” Taylor said. “He’s a veteran guy, but he’s not far off from the same kid who I’m sure fell in love with hockey at a young age. That’s why he loves the game and why he’s so special.”
Whether he foresaw it as a kid or even as an adult, the fact of the matter is no matter how much Kostopoulos remains unflinching in the face of more and more milestones, people will be balking at his accomplishments for the rest of this season and probably well after he leaves the game that he loves so much.