CRANBERRY TWP. — The leader of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins took his seat in the Pittsburgh locker room a few stalls down from the captain of the NHL Penguins.
For Tom Kostopoulos, being in an NHL locker room sitting near a player like Sidney Crosby is nothing new, but he admitted it’s nice to be back.
Even if it is just for a few days.
“It’s fun. I have a different perspective from everyone else in camp and it’s fun to watch everyone going through it and just listening to the guys,” Kostopoulos said after Sunday’s practice concluded. “You see the different mindsets and the guys at different stages of their careers.”
Kostopoulos, 38, is at the last stage of his career, but he’s been in that spot for several seasons. A veteran of 630 NHL games and 18 pro seasons, Kostopoulos enters every year as if it could be his last.
This season is no different.
“We’ll see how it goes,” he said when asked if this would be his final season. “I imagine it will be, but I’ve thought that for the last few years.”
Kostopoulos is on an AHL deal so he’s destined to return to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before their training camp starts on Sept. 24. He will enter his fifth consecutive season as the captain of the AHL squad and, for now, he’s soaking up the experience of being in an NHL room for as long as it lasts.
Through his time with the Pittsburgh organization Kostopoulos has witnessed the atmosphere of numerous teams. This year’s Pittsburgh squad, which is coming off its second consecutive Stanley Cup, has the feel of a club that is doing all the right things, he said.
“They’ve done a good job of being proud about last season but also being able to turn the page and get ready for the new year,” Kostopoulos said.
He’s been particularly impressed with Crosby at this year’s training camp.
“It’s neat to see how open he is with everyone. He talks to everyone and makes time, and he’s still able to do his job on the ice,” Kostopoulos said. “It’s impressive to watch.”
Almost as impressive as Kostopoulos’ longevity in the pro ranks.
While he remains non-committal about his future beyond the upcoming season, Kostopoulos said there are a number of factors that keep him coming back.
Love of the game and the support of his family top the list, as well as plenty of encouragement from his teammates.
“That means a lot. I love being a part of a team and being around the guys. If I had the feeling my time with them was wearing thin, I probably would’ve retired,” Kostopoulos said. “To have the support from them is one of the things that brings me back.”