The Unlikeliest Leaf: Mike Kostka Finally Makes The NHL - UMass Athletics

The Unlikeliest Leaf: Mike Kostka Finally Makes The NHL

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Here's a great piece on former Minuteman captain Mike Kostka from today's Globe and Mail out of Toronto. Kostka will be one of four UMass hockey alumni on NHL rosters as the season opens this afternoon.

No member of the Toronto Maple Leafs had a bigger smile on his face when the dressing room opened on Friday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre.

Mike Kostka was still there, still a Leaf and, presumably given he had been lining up alongside captain Dion Phaneuf throughout much of training camp, one day away from playing in his first NHL game at age 27.

That's not something you see all that often.

Kostka, who grew up a Leafs fan 45 minutes east of the Air Canada Centre in Ajax, Ont., has bounced around the minors for years after four seasons with the UMass Minutemen in the NCAA.

He graduated in 2008 at age 22 and stepped right into the AHL, playing two seasons with the Portland Pirates before considering going over to Europe, as many players do when they sense they're beginning a long, low-paying career in the North American minor leagues in their mid-20s.

Close friend, Marco Rosa, another minor leaguer looking for a break (and now playing in Finland), convinced him otherwise.

"After my first two years in the AHL, I didn't get qualified by Buffalo and I had an opportunity in Germany and I didn't have a job here," Kostka said. "I was about to sign that night to go over to Germany, and Marco told me 'if you think you have a 1 per cent chance of making the NHL, you can't leave now.' For whatever reason, that just made sense.

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