When the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins held exit interviews following a first-round playoff exit in late April, the organization and Tom Sestito agreed it was time to part ways.
The split was amicable and Sestito, who spent the last three seasons with the Pittsburgh organization, hinted that Wilkes-Barre/Scranton fans may not have seen the last of him.
“I have a couple things in mind with some of the teams that were interested before I signed last year,” he said. “There’s a good chance you might see me around.”
While Sestito, 30, might return to the Mohegan Sun Arena next season as an opponent, he’ll also return to the Wilkes-Barre community for other reasons. He said he’ll return to visit good friend Patrick McGrath and others he grew close to during his time with the Penguins. He also has a permanent link to the area as his son was born here in 2016.
And even though the decision to leave the Penguins was mutual, Sestito said, it was still tough.
“I’ll have ties to Wilkes-Barre for the rest of my life. It’s a great community to raise a family and the fans are so supportive. They really stick behind their team which is awesome to see,” he said.
Sestito signed with the Pittsburgh organization before the 2015-16 season after coming off a tumultuous ending to his time with Vancouver, where he played for more than two seasons. During the 2014-15 season, Vancouver placed Sestito on waivers and subsequently assigned him to the Utica Comets. He appeared in 10 games and was sent home in February.
Sestito credits Pittsburgh for getting his career back on track.
“They gave me a second chance. I got put in a bad spot in Vancouver and it wasn’t what I wanted to happen, but after coming here and playing again you see it’s a business,” he said. “Pittsburgh gave me a shot.”
During his three seasons with the organization, Sestito appeared in 17 games with Pittsburgh and 111 contests with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, providing a physical element along with offensive contributions.
One of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s veteran leaders, Sestito said it was time to leave considering Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has a lot of young players ready to come in.
“Tom Kostopoulos said it best when he talked about the young guys coming in and taking ice time. That’s how it works,” Sestito said. “I loved playing with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and there’s no bad feelings at all.”
And there are plenty of fond memories.
Sestito mentioned the second-round series against the Hershey Bears in the 2016 playoffs — which the Penguins lost in seven games — as one of the highlights. In Game 5 of the series, Sestito fought Hershey’s Liam O’Brien in the first period, scored on a breakaway in the third and received a game misconduct during his celebration. He finished the night with a goal and 37 penalty minutes.
“That game and that series, with the fights and the goals, is something I’ll always remember,” Sestito said.
So how does the 11-year veteran want to be remembered for his time in Wilkes-Barre?
“I want to be known as a guy who would do anything for anyone on his team. It’s a business and I’ll move on, but I truly enjoyed my time in Wilkes-Barre,” Sestito said.