During his two four-year stints as the head coach of the Everett Silvertips, Kevin Constantine never seemed to be far away from controversy.
Whether it was getting suspended for four games and fined what at the time was an unprecedented $5,000 for having his players wear their gear on the bus ride home from Kennewick following a preseason loss in 2006, or not partaking in the handshake line following a playoff series win in Spokane in 2015, Constantine had a way of drawing raised eyebrows from observers. Even his departure from Everett in 2017 was controversial as the team declined to renew his contract, despite Constantine having just won the U.S. Division championship with a roster that had no business finishing first.
So controversy and Constantine have gone hand in hand. But this time it appears he stepped too far over the line.
Constantine’s return to the WHL lasted just two games after the Wenatchee Wild’s head coach was suspended indefinitely by the league for, as described by a WHL press release, violating “the WHL Standard of Conduct policies by making derogatory comments of a discriminatory nature.”
As someone who was The Herald’s Silvertips beat writer for the entirety of Constantine’s first stint in Everett from 2003-07, as well as the first half of his second stint from 2013-17, I’m saddened that he’s made this his lasting legacy in the WHL.
Say what you want about Constantine — and there is no middle ground, everyone is on one side of the spectrum with their opinions of him — he had tremendous success in Everett. His hiring in 2003, which brought a former NHL head coach to the organization, gave instant credibility to an expansion franchise that many in WHL circles thought would fail in this market. He orchestrated the biggest shock in league history when he guided the expansion Tips to the U.S. Division and Western Conference titles in the team’s first season. He compiled a 326-199-51 record with Everett, which places him in the top 30 in both wins and winning percentage in WHL history. His teams won the division title in five of his eight seasons, as well as the 2007 Scotty Munro Trophy for the league’s best record. He won the 2004 Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s Coach of the Year, and The Herald named him its 2004 Man of the Year in Sports.
But Constantine’s coaching style, which wasn’t always the most aesthetically pleasing as it prioritized defensive security, combined with his abrasive personality meant he never lasted long in any of his coaching stints. Indeed, his four-year terms in Everett were his longest tenures as a coach in any location during his 39 years behind the bench.
But his stay in Wenatchee was by far his shortest.
Constantine was hired by the Wild as the team’s first coach since the franchise was sold and relocated from Winnipeg to Wenatchee during the offseason. His task was similar to his first season in Everett: bring immediate success to a team in a new city. Given the franchise’s depleted roster and empty draft-pick cupboard following last season’s championship drive that came up just short, one could see the appeal of a coach with Constantine’s track record.
I’d been looking forward to seeing Constantine’s return to Everett. I was curious what kind of reception he’d receive when the Wild played their first game in Everett, which happened last Friday. But that was scuttled when, just four days prior to Constantine’s return, he was suspended by the league as it investigated an alleged violation of WHL policies.
On Wednesday the league announced that as a result of the investigation, Constantine had been suspended indefinitely. If Constantine wants to return to the WHL he will have to apply for reinstatement, which can happen no earlier than July 2025.
“The WHL holds our players and staff to a very high standard of conduct at all times,” WHL commissioner Ron Robison said in the press release. “We have extensive programming which emphasizes the importance of always treating players and staff in a respectful manner and there is a zero tolerance for any comments of a derogatory nature. Those in leadership capacities in the WHL, in particular our head coaches, are expected to set examples for our players and not conduct themselves in a manner that would impact adversely on the team environment or inflict damage on the reputation of the league.”
It’s hard to see Constantine ever getting back into the league after this.
I always thought it was a sad ending when Constantine was unceremoniously dumped by the Tips in 2017. Little did I know Constantine would make his ultimate exit from the WHL even sadder.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.