September 12, 2010

Then and Now: Catching Up with Thomas Kiriakou

Then: “Then” isn’t so long ago for this 2009 graduate of the Ottawa 67’s. Fan favorite Thomas Kiriakou spent all 4 ½ years of his OHL career with the Ottawa 67’s where his hard work and leadership earned him the respect of team mates, team management and other teams. In his final year he was a reliable point-a-game face-off specialist and penalty-killing machine.
Thomas Kiriakou on his way to a playoff hat trick against the Niagara Ice Dogs.

As one of 16 members of the Richmond Hill Stars to be drafted into the OHL in 2004, Thomas was glad to come to Ottawa and to a great team like the Ottawa 67’s where he had wonderful billets and fantastic team management.

His best memory as a 67’s was being called up for the 2005 run to the Memorial Cup. Chris Hulit, Joe Talbot, Mark Mancari and Bryan Bickell (who was a member of the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks this past season) were like older brothers to him. He wanted carry the feeling from that experience as inspiration for future playoff success; unfortunately that was not to be.

Thomas considers his most important take-away from his time in Ottawa is the respect that Brian Kilrea and the club ingrained in the players. It may be a cliché but Thomas believes that he came to Ottawa as a boy and left as a man.

Now: I caught up with Thomas just as he was settling into his second year at Guelph University where he is in a general BA program for now but is considering a move to Landscape Architecture after some exposure to it this summer.

He had an outstanding rookie year playing for the Guelph Gryphons with 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points in 26 regular season games which earned him honours as the Ontario University Athletics West top rookie and being named to the CIS all-rookie team. All this while meeting his academic commitments.

There were some similarities and some adjustments in moving to CIS hockey. Academics are a priority; players are not allowed to miss any class that is scheduled at the same time as the daily two-hour hockey practices. Tutors are available to assist the athletes. Road trips are quite different than his major-junior days….it’s very quiet on the bus with everyone’s nose in a book either studying for exams or getting the reading done. As for the hockey, it’s fast and physical (although fighting is not allowed) playing with and against highly skilled mature players.

With his rookie year behind him, he has big expectations for the team this year. Last year’s team was essentially a brand new team with almost 12 new guys – many with major junior experience. With a year under their collective belts, he has his eye set on going the distance.

As for a possible shot at playing professional hockey, like Danny Battochio, he hopes to have the best of both worlds – taking full advantage of his OHL scholarship to get a post-secondary education and playing competitive CIS hockey to the best of his abilities to warrant a shot at the pros. His experience at the Traverse City Rookie Tournament was amazing and showed him what it takes to get to that level. He's going to keep working hard on and off the ice to get another shot at the pros noting "It's not where you start but it’s where you finish."

There is no doubt that Thomas Kiriakou will finish very well, wherever his journey takes him.

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