EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips reached deep into their past to hire a new head coach when they announced on Thursday that Kevin Constantine would return to the team.
The announcement was greeted with a standing ovation by the dozens of fans who turned out to Comcast Arena to witness his return. After nearly 30 minutes of posing for pictures, shaking hands and exchanging hugs, Constantine admitted his reception was a little overwhelming.
“It’s the Everett faithful, so I’m not totally surprised,” Constantine said. “But it was a real nice welcome back. It feels good.”
Constantine shrugged off questions of whether his reputation as a defensive-minded coach would mesh with general manager Garry Davidson, who likes offensive fireworks. Davidson fired coach Mark Ferner last season and took over himself behind the bench in hopes Everett would generate more offense.
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Constantine said it’s a misconception that he’s a defensive coach.
“We have way more common ground than differences,” Constantine said. “Garry likes a certain way of playing the game, but we all would like to combine the ability to generate goals with playing a good two-way game.”
Constantine admitted he didn’t know too much about the returning Everett players. The Silvertips went 25-40-3-4 last season and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual WHL champion Portland Winterhawks.
“I think it’s healthy to give all the players a fresh start, but it’s also important for me to do some research and I’m starting that process immediately,” Constantine said.
Under Constantine, who coached Everett from 2003 to 2007, the Silvertips were immediately successful as an expansion franchise when they won the Western Conference title in the 2003-04 season.
That performance earned Constantine the WHL Coach of the Year award.
The Silvertips made the playoffs all four seasons Constantine was coach and had a .613 winning percentage with three U.S. Division titles in four seasons. The Silvertips also won 7 of 11 playoff series under him.
Constantine left the Silvertips to coach the Houston Aeros, a farm team of the Minnesota Wild. He was there three seasons and has coached overseas for the past three seasons. He is the former head coach of the San Jose Sharks, Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils and compiled an NHL record of 159-153-66.
After coaching three years in Europe, Constantine said it was important to return to North America so he could reunite his family full-time.
“I only really looked at two coaching opportunities,” Constantine said. “I had some opportunities overseas, but was very comfortable coming back here.”
Constantine’s overall record in Everett was 162-97 with 17 ties, seven overtime losses and two shootout losses. In the playoffs his teams went 30-29.
“I feel very lucky to be coaching,” Constantine said, “and this is a very high level of hockey and a respected league in the world.”