The writing was on the wall for Tom Kostopoulos when the Montreal Canadiens recently announced that newly-acquired defenceman Jaroslav Spacek would wear number 6 this season.
Up until late this afternoon, that number still, technically, belonged to Kostopoulos. However, Kostopoulos knew the writing was on the wall when the Habs made it clear that they were going in another direction at the end of last season. A direction that did not include number 6, Tom Kostopoulos, much to his dismay.
Faced with that harsh reality, Kostopoulos today signed with the club that showed an immediate interest in his services when they became available July 1st: the Carolina Hurricanes. It’s a three-year contract that will pay Kostopoulos just under three million dollars.
Sure, I’ll miss Saku Koivu. However, I”m thrilled that the Captain (he’ll always be the Captain, in my books) is getting a chance to play with his buddy Teamu Selanne in Anaheim. Yes, I”ll miss Alex Kovalev, who managed to let an offer from the Canadiens slip through his fingers on July 1 before he settled on one from the Ottawa Senators. However, I’m also going to miss Tom Kostopoulos; the person, and the hockey player.
Kostopoulos quickly became a fan favorite during his two-year stint with the Canadiens: and for good reason. T.K. went to war for this team, and he had the scars to prove it. At the end of any given night, his face looked like ten miles of bad road. When opposing thugs were running at the Habs last season, it wasn’t Georges Laraque who stepped in to set the record straight. It was Tom Kostopoulos.
When gloves needed to be dropped, it was Tom Kostopoulos who dropped them. The CH on his chest? Sure, it stood for Club de Hockey Canadien. It also stood for CHaracter.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. Kostopoulos was hardly a complete hockey player. It was exhausting to watch him skate. And his lack of scoring touch could drive you crazy, although it was fun to see what he could do when teamed up with someone like Robert Lang. He’ll probably never hit double digits in goals in any given season. But tell me this: who was Montreal’s most effective player in the playoffs two years ago?
Tom Kostopoulos, playing on a line with Steve Begin and Brian Smolinski.
While the Canadiens were imploding during their Centennial season, who was the one forward the Habs could count on, game in and game out, to get the job done?
Tom Kostopoulos, the player who received my vote for the Jacques Beauchamp Trophy as the unsung hero in 2008-2009; a year that featured precious few heroes on this club.
T.K.’s job was never to score 30 goals. His job was to keep opposing players honest. To grind opposing players into the boards. And Kostopoulos never failed to deliver. Look up lunch-bucket hockey in the dictionary, and you’ll find a picture of Tom Kostopoulos. A more honest hockey player you’ll never find.
Now you’ll find him in Carolina.