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John Koufis, the 2024 Adult Player of the Year, Sees No End in Sight for His Playing Career

By Bob Reinert, 05/30/24, 9:00AM MDT


The 58-year-old has been playing on the same rec team for more than 30 years.

When John Koufis found out that he would receive USA Hockey’s 2024 Adult Player of the Year Award, he responded with characteristic humility.

“I’m just an old guy playing hockey,” said the 58-year-old from Palatine, Illinois. “You don’t really think about awards and things of that nature at this stage of the game. Obviously, I’m humbled and honored.”

Koufis was downplaying a lifetime in hockey that has included nearly a half-century as a player and experience as a coach, administrator and teamowner. How many people can claim that they have represented not one, but two countries in international play?

Koufis has played hockey continuous since he was about 10 years old besides his final two years earning his accounting degree at DePaul University.

“I guess in retrospect I missed it … because the second I was done with school, I started playing immediately,” Koufis said. “I call myself the luckiest amateur beer-leaguer on the planet. I never played in college. [I] just kept playing, had a passion for the game. I just love the game, period.”

Koufis did play high school hockey, but he will tell you that he was nothing special back then

“I was very average,” he recalled. “Moments of brilliance surrounded by long periods of mediocrity. It’s like my golf game.”

In 1991, Koufis and friends were talking in a bar and decided to form a hockey team. They liked the logo and colors of the new San Jose Sharks; that’s how the Chicago Sharks were born.

Koufis said the core of the team really formed in 1994. That year, the Sharks competed at the USA Hockey Adult National Championships.

The team would go on to win multiple national titles in their 30s and 40s. Most recently, the Sharks captured the 50+ Tier I championship at the 2024 USA Hockey Adult National Championships. 

“We’ve just never stopped participating,” said Koufis, who has run the organization with friend Mike Vasilevich since 1994. “Probably 70% of that core is still together.”

The Sharks organization now also has 60-plus and 40-plus teams to go along with the “Baby Sharks,” featuring players all under 30.

Koufis, a Greek American dual citizen, played in five IIHF Division III Men’s World Championships for Greece during his 40s. 

“Playing full-check [hockey] at that age chasing 20-year-olds around was interesting. I did OK,” he said. “Yes, it’s Division III, but it’s still pretty neat to represent your nationality.”

Koufis recently returned from Slovakia, where he served as Greece’s general manager for the 2024 IIHF Development Cup.

Last year, Koufis became majority owner and chief executive officer of the Johnstown (Pa.) Tomahawks of the North American Hockey League.

“Part of buying the team was also to sort of give back to the next generation of kids coming up and keeping myself busy in my retirement,” said Koufis, currently chief financial officer of General Kinematics in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

Meanwhile, Koufis continues to skate along at right wing with no end in sight.

“You get the bumps and bruises from time to time,” he said. “Other than five broken noses and about 50-some-odd stitches in my face? No complaints. I’ve got a face for radio anyway, so no big deal.”

How long is he prepared to keep playing for?

“USA Hockey’s got national championships in the 75-plus [age group], so I’ve seen our future,” Koufis said. “We’ve got a great bunch of guys, lifelong friends now. This has sort of made me reflect a little bit about this hockey life that I somehow, by accident, stepped into. No one does it alone, obviously. You can’t do it by yourself.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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