Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Infamous Tom "The Goon" Kostopoulos

In response to all the negativity and remarks made about Tom Kostopoulos being a dirty player I've decided to pipe up in his defence. I watched quite a ridiculously exciting game between two of the oldest rivals in sports on Saturday night. It was Hockey Night In Canada... a Historic night in which hockey legends were honoured, former Leaf and World War II veteran Gaye Stewart read the poem "In Flanders Fields", and the Leafs faced off against the Habs for the annual Hockey Hall of Fame game. A fast paced game that was nothing sort of phenomenal but with the good comes the bad. At 7:03 of the first period the Leafs Mike Van Ryn went to the end board followed by the Habs Tom Kostopoulos on the fore-check, retrieved the puck and was clobbered from behind. The native of London, Ontario Van Ryn newly acquired by the leafs in the 2008 off season has been a spark plug to the leafs defense and has ignited the leafs bench all season thus far. Van Ryn suffered a concussion, broken nose, broken bone in his hand, a lacerated forehead and damaged teeth and gums in the aftermath of this hit. Van Ryn will miss at least a month of action which is a big blow to this leaf defence to say the least. With both teams having something to prove on Saturday night and the historicity of the night there was a definite intensity in the air. Back to the hit! There is a very fine line when it comes to hits of this nature but is it really fair to lay all the blame on Kostopoulos? I have watched the hit now countless times and still cringe every time I see it. Van Ryn goes to the boards to get the puck with Kostopoulos streaking in directly behind him, just before reaching the boards Van Ryn turns as to try to fend off Kostopoulos. This turning motion just as Kostopoulos was approaching was enough to give a green light to lay the hit. There is no doubt in my mind that a hit from behind is a dirty hit but given the circumstances was it really as dirty as everyone has made it out to be? Kostopoulos a Mississauga, Ontario native has been in the league 7 years now and with no history of acts such as this one. He has been suspended only once in his career, a 1 game suspension for instigating a fight in the last 5 minutes of a game vs. the rival Bruins. I guess you can say this makes Kostopoulos a "repeat offender". The fact of the mater is that Kostopoulos is a tough player with a lot of heart, he goes to the boards and finishes his checks. Maybe it's just me but haven't we been taught to finish our hits since Peewee hockey? Granted you are not supposed to finish a hit from behind but if a player has possession of the puck and turns towards you is it really illegal to hit him. The way i see it there was no intent behind this hit, Kostopoulos did not mean to hit Van Ryn from behind and had absolutely no intent to injure him. It is easy to say that he could have stopped but look at the pace of the rest of the game. It's tough to stop when you get into those situations and Van Ryn was vulnerable going into the boards but only because he made himself vulnerable. It is also easy to say that Kostopoulos only cares now because he has been suspended for 3 games and fined $33,000 but you can see the genuine sincerity when he talks about the hit. People have bashed this guy all week, apparently we should ban him from the league now for playing the game the way its supposed to be played. Hockey is a tough sport and unfortunately injuries occur, some preventable and some that cannot be prevented but I wouldn't go and label Kostopoulos as a "goon". I say 3 games is a fair suspension, Kostopoulos obviously has to take the brunt of the blame but he did not intend to nearly ruin another players career and he is definitely not the dirty player that he's being made out to be! Anyways, that's my 2... maybe even 3 cents. What do you think? Later Friends...

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