We all have heroes.
Sports figures. Parental figures. Family members. Teachers. Neighbors. Friends.
An excerpt from the New Oxford American Dictionary defines, “hero” in part…
a person of superhuman qualities and often semidivine origin, in particular one of those whose exploits and dealings with the gods were the subject of ancient Greek myths and legends.
Some heroes are immortal because they are fictional. Superman. Batman. Just a few names that come to mind.
Some heroes are mortals. Mother Teresa. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We use sports as a getaway from the hustle and bustle of our lives. Stress of a job, caring for a family member, school, et cetera. Sometimes we watch sports because we like to live vicariously through the players or coaches that play the game.
One name that can be synonymous with the likes of Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins hockey for these past nineteen years is Tom Kostopoulos.
All time leader in games played, goals, assists, points, game winning goals and power play goals. Their captain. If all Penguins captains had a captain, he would be Tom Kostopoulos.
A sports hero.
Kostopoulos confirmed today that this season will be his last playing professional hockey.
When the news broke, the reaction was swift.
And so on and so forth.
When Coal Street announced the return of Kostopoulos a few seasons ago I thought it was a hokey nostalgia grab for attention by the franchise with a player that was past his prime which would only drag down the team.
Boy, was I wrong.
I don’t have a media credential. I’d rather it that way because I get to put what I want in this space when I want and how I want and don’t have to answer to an editor or a team official for something I write here.
That said, I follow closely the men and women that do. And in that, no one has a bad thing to say about Kostopoulos. There are literally hundreds of players that would line up from here to Binghamton to play with and for the Penguins captain.
I thought that with the injury that Kostopoulos sustained earlier this season that the time away from the ice would buy him another year, because every Spring we have been left with the question of, “will he or won’t he retire?” But in that same breath, that injury probably accelerated Kostopoulos’ decision to make this season his last.
Rather than making media, fans, front office, hockey ops and players wait, Kostopoulos got out in front of the story and announced today that this would be his last.
Win for him.
Anytime you qualify for extra time for doing what you love, you always have the juice to keep going. The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins are one point away from sewing up yet another postseason berth. All of those prior seasons have come up empty for the Penguins who still do not have a Calder Cup Championship hanging from the rafters of the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
You don’t think the players, those currently playing for and with Kostopoulos don’t have the fire to win a championship for Kostopoulos to see him off into the sunset with the biggest retirement gift imaginable? More so now, that the news is officially official, than ever?
It isn’t easy to win a Calder Cup. If it were, the Penguins would have four or five by now. But that said, it may be hard to discount the Penguins as an easy out this postseason because the guys in the room want to get the man they look up to, their hero of sorts, the one thing that has eluded him at this level.
After all, the hero always goes out a winner.