Now that his playing days are over, Tom Kostopoulos is beginning a new chapter of his hockey career with the organization where it all began.
On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Penguins named Kostopoulos and another former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin, Andy Chiodo, to player development roles within the organization. Kostopoulos was named player development coach, and Chiodo was named goaltending development coach.
Both Kostopoulos and Chiodo will work closely with Penguins’ director of player development Scott Young and player development coach Jarrod Skalde.
In April, when Kostopoulos announced he would retire at the end of the 2017-18 season, he hinted that a role with Pittsburgh may be in the cards.
“I knew I wanted to stay in this organization and be part of it. It’s been so good to me,” Kostopoulos said. “It means a lot that I’ll be able to stay in this organization. I’m really happy to remain a part of it.”
Kostopoulos, 39, and Chiodo, 35, rank among the most popular players in the history of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and both made their NHL debuts with Pittsburgh in the early 2000’s.
A native of Mississauga, Ontario, Kostopoulos wrapped up a 19-year professional career that included a combined 1,468 NHL and AHL regular season and playoff games. He is Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s all-time leader in games played (658), goals (187), assists (282) and points (469), and he is one of only four players in hockey history to have logged 600 games at both the NHL and AHL levels. Kostopoulos served as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s captain for the final five seasons of his career.
Although he was playing in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Kostopoulos played an instrumental role in Pittsburgh’s back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and 2017. As Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s captain, Kostopoulos helped assimilate several of the young players who played starring roles for Pittsburgh to the professional ranks, a group that included Matt Murray, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Brian Dumoulin, Conor Sheary and Tom Kuhnhackl.
Kostopoulos said he and his family are moving back to Ontario so their children can be around their grandparents, but he’ll remain a familiar face in Wilkes-Barre.
“With this job, I’ll be helping out where Pittsburgh has prospects and coming back to Wilkes-Barre to help with the young guys here. I’ll be around,” Kostopoulos said.
While he’s gratfeul for the opportunity to remain with the Pittsburgh organization, Kostopoulos is just as thankful to have a job in hockey. He said he has spoken with former teammates who struggled to find jobs in hockey after retirement.
“I’m very fortunate this opportuniy came up with Pittsburgh and they offered it to me,” Kostopoulos said. “It still gives me a chance to be part of the game, be around the dressing room a little bit and still see the guys. It’s good to have that still.”
Chiodo enjoyed tremendous success with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the outset of his professional career in 2003-04, helping the Penguins reach the 2004 Calder Cup Final. Chiodo led Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 18 wins in the regular season that year, then tacked on three shutouts during the team’s playoff run.
Chiodo, who was selected by the Penguins in the seventh round (199th overall) in the 2003 NHL Draft, saw his only NHL action with Pittsburgh that season. He sparked a late-season revival after joining the club in February. His first NHL win came on Feb. 25, 2004, a 4-3 overtime defeat of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Not only was that Chiodo’s first win, but that victory ended the Penguins’ franchise-record-tying 18-game winless stretch. Chiodo posted a 3-4-1 record in eight games with Pittsburgh, as the Penguins went on a 12-5-3 run to close the season after winning just 11 of their first 62 games.
Following his three-year run in the Pittsburgh organization, which included time with the Wheeling Nailers as well, Chiodo continued to play professionally in North America and Europe through the 2016-17 campaign. His 14 seasons included stops in Russia, Finland and Austria. In 2007-08, his Finnish team, Kärpät, won the SM-liiga championship.
Chiodo spent the 2017-18 season as the goaltending coach for the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League.
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky