Mike Babcock seems to have set an NHL record: even for the wild league of the 1970s and 1980s, with its extravagant owners, it would have been strange to fire a coach who had not been able to play a single preseason game. However, another fairly well-known coach could soon repeat his luck. Kevin Constantine, who worked in San Jose and Pittsburgh in the 1990s, received a disqualification from the Junior Western Hockey League before the start of the season for actions that remain unclear.
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In Russia, the former goalkeeper became famous thanks to his work in San Jose, where Igor Larionov, Sergei Makarov, Vyacheslav Kozlov and several other of our famous hockey players played with him. Vasily Tikhonov also worked at the headquarters, who spoke about the former boss: “I had the impression that this man only thought about himself and didn’t give a damn about the people who worked nearby. And for the sake of his ambitions, he was willing, as they say, to walk over dead bodies. I remember once we were traveling by bus from the airport to a Canadian city and Kevin overheard Igor and Sergei speaking in Russian. He immediately sent one of his assistants to tell them that he did not want to hear Russian spoken.”
The “Sharks” at the beginning of their life in the NBA were terrible, and Konstantin, who was just beginning his career as a head coach, opted for sharply defensive tactics, which the Russian coaches did not like. “He was younger than Larionov and me. I tried to explain something, I drew diagrams. At first I ate the whole brain. He taught me how to play hockey. But Scotty Bowman advised him: “Get a group of five together and don’t touch them. “They know what to do themselves.” Konstantin did just that. And then he took all the credit for himself,” said Sergei Makarov.
Kevin Constantine while working for San Jose
Ivan Nikolishin, who worked with Konstantin in the youth league, said in an interview with “Championship”:
“Did Konstantin remember working with Larionov and Makarov? He told a lot of stories about them, about how Kevin told Larionov how to play defense, and he said, “If I have this little black thing on the hook, then we won’t have to play defense.” The coach himself in subsequent interviews did not deny the fact that our players played as they were allowed, and not as Konstantin wanted.
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In Konstantin’s first two seasons, San Jose sensationally made it past the first round of the playoffs (they eliminated superstar Detroit in 1994), but in the fall of 1995 everything fell apart. The friction between Larionov and the coach became too strong, in addition, the professor was unhappy that the club did not offer Sergei Makarov a new contract. Larionov said in an interview with SE: “The next morning I went to coach Kevin Konstantin and general manager Dean Lombardi and told them I was asking for a trade. The response was harsh: “You will still come crawling towards us.” “They told me there would be no trade, that I would stay home until the deadline and then I would approach them asking them to bring me back to the team.” Soon there will be no Larionov or Konstantin in the “Sharks”: the coach was fired after three wins in 25 matches at the beginning.
After his dismissal, Konstantin found work as an assistant in Calgary, where he was also involved in a scandal. In the Alberta Derby against Edmonton, where passions were running high, a not-so-intelligent Oilers fan decided to serve beer to the legendary Guy Lapointe, who also worked at the Flames headquarters. Two coaches and tough guy Sasha Lakovich, who joined them, tried to break into the fan, but security officers intervened. The fan received a month in prison, the Calgary Arena was fined for failing to provide security, and Konstantin received a one-match disqualification.
After that, Konstantin managed the pre-bankruptcy Pittsburgh team under Jaromir Jagr and kept the club afloat, making the playoffs. The Penguins, who finished eighth in the regular season, even eliminated New Jersey in the spring of 1999. However, Jagr was also unhappy with the coach for the same reason as Larionov: Konstantin played defense and preferred a game structure clear. “He communicates terribly with the team: either he shouts or you can’t find him. I don’t like how he prepares the team and I am not alone among the players,” Jagr told the Czech press. Despite two good regular seasons, Konstantin was fired after the first failures in the winter of 1999.
After that, the coach did not work in the NHL. In 2002, Konstantin spent the end of the season in New Jersey, where he warmed up for Pat Burns, but in the playoffs, after an excellent regular season, he was sensationally eliminated by Carolina. The experienced coach then worked in youth leagues, the AHL, and managed to travel throughout the hockey world: Korea, Poland, Hungary. In the spring, he led the Hungarian team to the World Championship; As expected, the team fell from the elite, but managed to leave a good impression in some quarters.
In the youth league, Konstantin was also suspended: when he worked in Everett, after a loss in a preseason game, he forced some players to have dinner and return home after the game in full clothes. Despite the coach’s reputation as an “early days” man and the general softening of morale in Canadian junior hockey, Konstantin landed a job with the Western League team Wenatchee. Previously based in Winnipeg, he was sold to new owners who decided to change coaches.
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There are no exact details yet on what happened, but journalist Ryan Kennedy reports that Konstantin allegedly indulged in a racial slur. If this information is confirmed, the coach will face inevitable resignation. Interestingly, a team from the same Western League was recently coached by Bill Peters, who took special courses after the Akim Aliu scandal. If the information is confirmed and Konstantin wants to return to hockey, he will have to follow the same path.