Monday 25 September 2023

End Of The Line?

I'm not here to pass judgment on people who are working on making themselves better after being jerks in the past. Yes, there's a some prejudice that one may revert back to one's jerk-like behaviours, but the hope is that the person in question is showing positive growth so that those behaviours don't come back. Unforunately, it seems that Kevin Constantine learned nothing after having coached in Europe and Asia for the last few years as he's now being investigated by the WHL for an "incident" that occurred this past weekend. The head coach of the Wenatchee Wild made it two games into the new WHL season before being excused from the team while the investigation continues.

As per the WHL's statement issued this evening, "The Western Hockey League announced today, Kevin Constantine, Head Coach of the Wenatchee Wild, has been suspended pending an independent investigation into alleged violations of WHL Regulations and Policies." There were no references as to which regulations and/or policies that Constantine violated, but rest assured that it's never good when the league is investigating a head coach.

Wenatchee had two home games this season to begin their era in the WHL. They hosted Portland on Friday, defeating the Winterhawks by a 6-5 score in a game where they trailed 5-3 midway through the second period. They followed that effort up with a game on Saturday night that saw the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds defeat the Wild 3-2 with a goal scored with 33 seconds remaining in the third period. One could understand there may be some frustration over surrendering that late goal, but it seems Constantine went far beyond the realm of acceptable behaviour at some point this weekend. As a result of those actions, he's been sent home by the league.
"Constantine was suspended on Sunday after the WHL's independent reporting channel received a complaint regarding his conduct. Constantine is not permitted to have any contact with any member of the organization, including players, while the matter is being investigated.

"The WHL's independent Player Advisory Council is conducting an investigation into the allegations. The independent investigation began Sunday when the complaint was received. Upon completion of the investigation, the Player Advisory Council will provide a report to the WHL Commissioner who will then make a determination on any further disciplinary action."
Again, I'm not here to pass judgment on past behaviours, but if Constantine was verbally abusive towards anyone he shouldn't be allowed to continue in his role. He's a head coach of a WHL team, so he needs to be able to find ways to communicate with players effectively. If screaming at players until he's blue in the face is his only method, that's never going to work in today's day and age.

The problem is that this isn't an isolated incident where a guy simply lost his cool. In 2006, Constantine was suspended four games and fined $5000 for "inappropriate" actions following the a 5-0 preseason loss by the Everett Silvertips to the Tri-City Americans. Reportedly, "Constantine had his team take off their helmets, skates and gloves and eat their postgame meal at the Toyota Center with the rest of their equipment still on. They rode home on the team bus from Kennewick to Everett in their gear, and even players who had been scratched and did not play in that game put on their gear for the ride home." Frankly, that's a ridiculous punishment for playing poorly in a preseason game, and I'm glad Constantine was punished.

Times have obviously changed over the 17 years between that incident with the Silvertips and the one that occurred this past weekend, but society has also matured to understand the impact that negative experiences have on teenagers when it comes to mental health. Screaming at 17 year-olds for not playing hard is one thing, but understanding that every one of those players has had different experiences up to that point factors in when it comes to mental health and potential trauma each has experienced. That screaming session, however, might just be what triggers a negative outcome for one of those players, and no one is wanting to see anything like that.

As we saw with Mike Babcock, it's tough for leopards to change their spots when it comes to behaviours that have seen success in the past and have gotten these coaches rewarded in the past. I'm not here to defend either of Mike Babcock nor Kevin Constantine because this is one of those "fool me once" things where past misbehaviour is very likely to occur again because, as the saying goes, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks". In both of Babcock's and Constantine's cases, we're talking about men in their mid-60s who seemingly haven't learned a thing about changing with the times.

Again, I'm basing this off a screaming session where Constantine dressed down the entire team after losing a game. I could be very wrong about the situation that got him suspended, but this excerpt from Dan Rusanowsky's If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the San Jose Sharks Ice, Locker Room, and Press Box holds any water, this might be a recurrance of that poor behaviour.
As stated above, I could be completely off in what may have happened, and I suspect that it may be worse than how I'm portraying it to be with how quick the WHL moved to suspend Constantine. If it does turn out to be worse, the Wild will have no choice but to fire him. If that happens, that's likely the end of the line for Constantine when it comes to coaching.

I want to say that I'm surprised that this happened, but I think the surprise comes from knowing it could happen, trying to give Constantine a second chance, and then hearing it did happen. I want to believe that hockey is capable of transforming people who act like Neanderthals into functioning members of present society, but it seems that the learned behaviours of being a Neanderthal are to what people like Kevin Constantine regress in moments of stress.

Sometimes, you hope for the best, but you get the worst. Kevin Constantine may be the latter once the WHL investigation is concluded.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: