Minor League Hockey Legend Moves Behind the Bench
Chad Costello will now try to achieve as a coach what he achieved as a player
There is still juice left in his legs, still points left in his hockey stick.
But Chad Costello had to make a business decision. And he decided that, at 36 years of age, his future was behind the hockey bench rather than sitting on it. So Costello retired from professional hockey this summer to begin his coaching career with his former ECHL team, the Allen Americans.
Costello will be without his best player in his coaching debut season – himself. Costello led the Americans in scoring last year and finished sixth in the ECHL with 72 points, including a team-runnerup 26 goals. He was voted second-team ECHL, the only Allen player to garner any post-season honors.
“I’ve always had a passion for coaching,” Costello said. “I just didn’t know when that would start. When I found out Marty (former coach Steve Martinson) wasn’t coming back, I didn’t want this opportunity to pass me by.”
Costello enjoyed one last fling on the ice this summer when he participated in the inaugural 3Ice tournament – a 3-on-3, six-team competition that stretched over nine weekends and featured teams coached by the likes of Hall of Famers Guy Carbonneau, Bryan Trottier and Grant Fuhr. Costello was drafted by Trottier and promptly led his team to the first 3Ice championship while also capturing league MVP honors.
“The 3Ice was perfect for me,” Costello said. “It was light checking, light body contact. You’d fly in for the games, practice on Friday, have a pre-game skate, play the game and you’re done. My body could handle that schedule.
“So I would play really good one weekend and I’d come home and brag to my wife, `I can still play.’ Then she’d say, `Just a reminder, if you were playing in the ECHL you’d be on the bus right now on the way to play a third night in a third city.”
If there was a minor-league hockey Hall of Fame, Costello would be a first-ballot inductee. He played 11 seasons in all of the leagues – IHL, CHL, ECHL and AHL – and scored 772 points in 598 career games. And that doesn’t include the 95 points he scored in 100 games over three seasons in Europe.
Costello won three consecutive ECHL scoring titles with the Americans from 2015-17 with 125 points in 2015, 103 points in 2016 and 122 points in 2017. If you subtracted the 41 goals he scored in the 2014-15 season, his 84 assists would have still led the ECHL in scoring. Incredibly, he was not voted the ECHL MVP that season but was awarded that honor in both 2016 and 2017.
Costello also was the ECHL MVP in 2012-13 with the Colorado Eagles when he scored 29 goals and 76 points in only 47 games. He was a first-team all-star that season as well as the three seasons he led the ECHL in scoring with the Americans. Costello won Kelly Cups in his first two seasons with the Americans and was the playoff MVP in 2016 when he collected 36 points in 24 games.
For the previous 14 summers Costello’s focus was getting himself in shape for training camp. But his focus this offseason was building a team to take to a training camp. Coaches in the ECHL serve as their own general managers so Costello had to secure an NHL/AHL affiliate in addition to scouting, recruiting and signing players.
The Americans agreed to that affiliation with the NHL Ottawa Senators and AHL Belleville Senators. Then Costello began the roster building by signing friends (Jack Combs), former teammates (Spencer Asuchak, Jackson Leppard), ECHL free agents (Zach Pochiro, Mikael Robidoux) 3Ice acqaintances (Colton Saucerman, Dalton Skelly), SPHL all-stars (Marcel Godbout of the Peoria Rivermen) and college standouts (Hank Crone of Northern Michigan). He also traded for Stephen Baylis, who scored 22 goals for the ECHL Rapid City Rush last season, and coaxed former Boston Bruins’ draft pick Colton Hargrove out of retirement..
“This is all new to me,” Costello said, “but I’m learning every day.”
Costello the coach built a team that Costello the player would have been a comfortable fit. But his contribution this winter will come from behind the bench. The Americans open their season Friday in Tulsa against the Oilers.