Friday, July 11, 2014

A hockey hotbed gave Kostopoulos his start

March 02. 2013 11:48PM

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There’s a lot of well-known hockey icons who have come from Tom Kostopoulos’ hometown of Mississauga, Ontario. Former Bruins coach and Hockey Night in Canada personality Don Cherry, Hall of Fame goaltender Johnny Bower, Penguin great Paul Coffey and current NHL star Jason Spezza to name a few.

But, interstingly enough, there’s also a fast-food icon. Col. Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, was a Mississauga resident in the 1960’s.

Kostopoulos never knew that, and that’s probably because Mississauga is more defined by its status as a Canadian hockey hotbed as opposed to fried chicken. Located just west of Toronto along the shores of Lake Ontario, Mississauga is full of hockey rinks and frozen ponds. Like most kids growing up in the Greater Toronto Area, Kostopoulos’ early life revolved around hockey. There is only one other sport that got in the way, temporarily, and Kostopoulos admits he regrets “kicking” it to the side so he could play hockey in the summer.

First, let’s talk about Don Cherry. How big of a deal is it to you that he is from your hometown? “Mississauga is very proud he’s from there and I think he still lives there. He gets involved in a lot of charities and community efforts. We’re very happy Don Cherry is from our town.”

How about the sheer number of NHL players that have come out of Mississauga. Is it safe to say Mississauga is a hockey hotbed? “Yes. The minor hockey system is really run well. There’s so many kids in that area that play hockey. Every kid grows up playing hockey. The amount of rinks - they are everywhere, so if you want ice time its there. Just the amount of rinks and the amount of kids that play develops hockey careers.”

What did you do outside of hockey while growing up in Mississauga? “Not a whole lot. Everything was hockey. I played soccer to and I liked it. It wasn’t as big as hockey at the time, but it’s growing now. Eventually I had to switch over to summer hockey and give up soccer, which I regreted. But hockey was the main thing.”

Do you get a lot of lake-effect snow being so close to Lake Ontario? “Lots of snow and cold weather. When I was growing up we had lots of frozen ponds to play on. Behind our house was a huge pond that would freeze over. Outdoor rinks to. With kids its about the amount of time you get to play on the ice, even if its not practicing. When I was growing up we were on the ponds all the time.”

Mississauga is the sixth largest city in Canada. Do you think it gets overlooked a bit because it is so close to Toronto? “It does go under the radar because of its proximity to Toronto, bit it’s actually a big city. There’s a lot of people there and it’s growing.”

Anything about Wilkes-Barre remind you of Mississauga? “Towns are known by their people. Everyone in Wilkes-Barre has been really nice and generous to me, the same as Mississauga. Good, down to earth people.”

Would you like to move back to Mississauga at some point? “I think so. My wife and I both grew up there. We either want to set our roots right in Mississauga or the town next to it, Oakville. We’ve lived there for a few years.”

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