No end in sight for Costello
Former CMH hockey player perseveres in sport
WAUKESHA – Jeff Costello already knows he has a future in hockey.
Having been drafted by the Ottawa Senators in 2009, Costello knows he will be playing hockey beyond his senior season at the University of Notre Dame.
“It was a dream come true being selected in the draft,” Costello said of being taken with the 146th pick in 2009. “I’ve had the benefit of going out to Ottawa the past couple of summers and participating in their development camp. Learning and being around other pros has helped teach me get to that level.”
However, being drafted hasn’t made him complacent in his development. Just being drafted by the Senators doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed a spot on the roster. The Senators can cut him anytime and put him on the free-agent market.
Costello’s been cut before, and he’s not about to let that happen again. But when Costello got cut by AAA Team Illinois, it was the turning point in his playing career. He was cut prior to his freshman year of high school, so Costello decided to play at Catholic Memorial. There, he became a two-time all-state player and eventually played for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the United States Hockey League.
“Definitely not,” Costello said when asked if he’d envisioned his career where it’s at now when he was a freshman at CMH. “I had a blast playing for Catholic Memorial and playing in front of my classmates. It’s been a long dream. After a few breaks from here to there, I’m very happy with the route I’ve took and the places I’ve played, and the people I’ve met.”
Being cut can be tough for any eighth grader at any level. AAA is the highest level of hockey for youths that age. Playing for Team Illinois was a commitment in itself. His father, Tim, would drive him about two hours one way to practice in Chicago twice a week during the season.
“It was devastating at the time,” Jeff Costello said about being cut. “I was going into high school and still planned on doing travel hockey still. When I found out, my parents did a great job supporting me and said that these things happen and it’s what I do after that’s going to determine what’s happen next.”
Tim Costello knew his son would bounce back. Jeff Costello is a model of resiliency. At the age of five, Costello was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic.
“I say he’s unstoppable,” Tim Costello said. “When he gets that curveball thrown at him, he just figures out how to deal with it. That’s kind of the way we raised him. That’s his mentality, he’s very resilient.”
On the ice, Jeff Costello was still a little small for his age and that could have been a reason why he was cut. But he never lost confidence in his game.
“I knew he was going to grow and be stronger and it was just one of those bumps in the road that you have to overcome,” Tim Costello said. “I knew he would prevail.”
Tim Costello said playing high school hockey just earned his son some notoriety in Wisconsin. It was just a different path. Jeff Costello played three years for the Crusaders, and during that time he was noticed by personnel from Grand Rapids and was drafted. In the two seasons with the RoughRiders, he was selected as an East Division All-Star and led the team to a secondplace finish in the 2009-10 season.
At 6-feet and 212 pounds, Jeff Costello doesn’t have to worry about being too small now. It’s that big frame that has gotten him as far has he’s gotten. Jeff Costello said it’s the physical part of the game that drew him to hockey. He leads the Irish in penalty minutes.
But he’s more than just the enforcer on the ice.
“He’s got good enough touch skills and playmaking ability to make a play,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said. “He’s got good vision and makes good plays with the puck. He can create offense with his physical presence, but also with his basic understanding of the game.”
Jeff Costello, who was voted a captain by teammates, doesn’t shy away from hitting. He said he tries to make it a point to get to the net and use his size so other players know he’s out there, too.
“He’s such a solid body. When he hits you, you know it,” Jackson said. “He’s not afraid to get to the net or win battles next to the boards.”
Looking back on his success, maybe it was some of these bumps in the road that made him the player he is today. Jeff Costello said he has no ill will against the Team Illinois coaches that cut him. In fact, he and his dad still joke about it.
“Actually, the year they cut me they went to the national championship game,” Jeff Costello said. “My dad jokes saying they cut the right guy. I still keep in contact with a few of the players I played with on that team.
“You can put in all the work and put in all the time and sometimes things still don’t go your way. My dad always said it takes timing and some luck in a lot of cases. If something bad happens, I don’t let it get to me and focus on the next opportunity.”
The next opportunity is to make it back to the Frozen Four. As a freshman, Costello scored the game’s first goal in a 4-3 loss to the University of Minnesota-Duluth. It was Notre Dame’s second Frozen Four appearance in the school’s history.
“Not get too high and not get too low and just take things in stride and make the best out of every situation,” Costello said.