Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More on Constantine...

Still nothing from the 'Tips on Contantine heading to the AHL. Something isn't right here. Sounds like it came as a surprise in Tipsville.

From the Everett Herald:

Tips' coach to leave EverettConstantine to lead Houston's AHL team
Nick Patterson / The Everett HeraldEverett,

WA - It's the end of an era.

The only coach the Everett Silvertips have ever known is moving on.

Kevin Constantine, who's been behind the Silvertips bench since day one of the franchise's history, has accepted the position of head coach of the Houston Aeros, the American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL's Minnesota Wild.

And in doing so, he leaves behind the team he helped build in to a force, both in the WHL and in the local community.

"I really felt there was a strong chance Everett was going to be my last stop on the coaching tour," the 48-year-old Constantine said via cell phone from Iowa, where he stopped while driving back to Everett from Florida. "But it's not like opportunities like this come along all the time. I just felt that if I was going to make one more round coaching in the professional ranks, all the factors made this job worth looking at."

Constantine signed his contract Tuesday morning. The move could potentially lead to a return to the NHL, where he spent parts of seven seasons as a head coach between 1993 and 2001.

The Silvertips had yet to release a statement regarding Constantine's departure or his replacement, and general manager Doug Soetaert could not be reached for comment.

Constantine arrived in Everett in 2003 to take over an expansion team in a market many questioned would ever work as a hockey town.

He departs four years later having helped turn the Silvertips into one of the top franchises in the league. Under his tutelage, Everett compiled a 162-109 record with 17 ties in four seasons, winning three U.S. Division titles and one Western Conference crown.

In Everett's inaugural season he led the Tips to an improbable run to division and conference titles as an expansion team, earning the league's Coach of the Year award for his efforts. Several of the players from that team, who were deemed unworthy of protection in the expansion draft, have since gone on to earn professional contracts.

In the process the Tips also became a sensation in Everett, building one of the loudest and most supportive fan bases in the WHL.

"It was just spectacular," Constantine said about his time in Everett. "It'd be flat out inaccurate to say this wasn't the most fun and rewarding four years of my coaching career. It's what made the decision so incredibly difficult. These were years where we accomplished a lot as a team, and it was fun watching the players develop.

"And I could never have predicted the enthusiasm with which the town took to the team and the team took to the town."

Constantine also had his share of controversy during his tenure in Everett. His fiery personality behind the bench led to confrontations with referees, and he regularly appeared on the league's fine list. During this preseason he was slapped with the largest fine in league history ($5,000 Canadian) for having his players ride the bus home from Kennewick while wearing their game gear.

Still, Constantine's success on the ice in Everett was attractive to Minnesota.

"A development team requires a leader who will teach the players the game, while at the same time instilling the discipline, accountability and hard work required to play in the NHL for this organization," Wild assistant general manager Tom Lynn, who also serves as Aeros general manager, said in a press release. "Kevin has a demonstrated record of all of these elements. In addition, he has had success coaching at all levels of hockey, and in particular, in developing younger players."

Constantine, who wasn't actively pursuing an NHL job, was first contacted by Minnesota two weeks ago. He was approached with a similar offer a year earlier by a different NHL team, but didn't take it. However, this time a combination of factors, including being a Minnesota native, being closer to two of his children who live in Minnesota, and knowing members of the Wild front office, were too hard to resist.

"A year ago at the NHL draft I was approached by a team to run their minor-league team," Constantine said. "I didn't follow through and kind of let it slide. Then I was approached by a (Minnesota) a couple weeks ago. If it had been a different organization or if I didn't know people in the organization, I think it would have stopped it."

The move could eventually lead Constantine back to the NHL. Constantine spent time as the head coach of the NHL's San Jose Sharks (1993-96), Pittsburgh Penguins (1997-2000) and New Jersey Devils (2001-02) before arriving in Everett. During those years he helped San Jose set the NHL record with a 58-point improvement in 1993-94, and also guided two No. 8 seeds (San Jose in 1994, Pittsburgh in 1999) to upsets over No. 1 seeds in the playoffs.

Constantine said he had yet to consider whether to ask associate head coach John Becanic and assistant coach Jay Varady, who followed him to Everett from the United States Hockey League's Pittsburgh Forge, to join him in Houston. Becanic is also likely to be a candidate for the head coaching position with the Tips.

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