Ex-NHL coach for Korean club demands excellence, warrior mentality

By Alex Park
  • Published : Jun 28, 2017 - 10:15
  • Updated : Jun 28, 2017 - 10:19

INCHEON -- South Korean hockey club Daemyung Killer Whalers won just seven games in regulation out of 48 in the 2016-2017 Asia League Ice Hockey season, finishing eighth among nine teams.

But their new bench boss, former National Hockey League coach Kevin Constantine, couldn't care less about the number of wins. The 58-year-old American, the first man to bring NHL coaching experience to a South Korean team, is all about effort and passion.

"Ultimately, we get measured by the win-loss record, but I don't measure things that way," Constatine said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency Tuesday at Daemyung's home arena, Seonhak International Ice Rink in Incheon.

Kevin Constantine, head coach of the Daemyung Killer Whalers hockey team, speaks to Yonhap News Agency in an interview at Seonhak International Ice Rink in Incheon on June 27, 2017. (Yonhap)

"I measure by, 'Are we as absolutely as good as we can be?'" he added. "That's excellence. Do it right. Do it the best you can do it. That's my goal."

Constantine, whose hiring was announced on June 19, will be asked to turn the fortunes around of a young, underachieving team -- in other words, do the same thing that he's always done throughout his career.

Constantine previously coached the San Jose Sharks, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New Jersey Devils in the NHL. He has also had coaching stints in the Western Hockey League and other major junior circuits.

With Constantine at the helm for the first time in the 1993-1994 season, the Sharks recorded 82 points, an improvement of an NHL-record 58 points from the previous season.

In his first season with the Penguins in 1997-1998, Constantine led them to the Northeast Division title with 98 points.

Constantine has also coached the US men's junior national team. The Killer Whales said they liked his track record of working with young players, and Constantine said he enjoys nothing more than helping young men succeed on and off the ice.

"The greatest gift a coach can give his players is to help them learn something that is of benefit to them," he said. "I don't think there's anything that we'll go through process-wise that won't be something that these players will be able to take into life itself. All of the things they'll learn here, through the challenges, will make them better at everything in life."

Constantine is nothing if not passionate, or even fiery. He said given the nature of hockey -- fast with skills at a premium -- players must approach the game with passion. And they have to see that from the bench, too.

"Players will take on the personality of the leadership," he said. "I think the leadership needs to show some passion because it's a game of passion. I am happy that something excites me as much as the game of hockey does. I love that my life has something that I am passionate about."

Constantine, who has also coached in Switzerland, said the Asian players' relatively small stature compared to Europeans or North Americans won't affect how he coaches the Killer Whales.

Kevin Constantine, head coach of the Daemyung Killer Whalers hockey team, draws a pyramid to explain his coaching philosophy during an interview with Yonhap News Agency at Seonhak International Ice Rink in Incheon on June 27, 2017. (Yonhap)

"It's not the size of the dog; it's the size of the fight in the dog," he said. "The size is not always the way to win. Competitiveness and positioning are stronger than size. I think one of the wonderful things about the game of hockey is you can be small and still be amazingly effective."

Different physiques of the players aside, Constantine also said building a hockey team is virtually the same anywhere in the world.

"The challenge here will be the same as it was in other leagues, in that, like building a tall building, you have to build the foundation first," he said. "Learning to play the game the right way is the foundation of how you make a hockey team."

By "the right way," Constantine means players have to be willing to battle.

"Hockey is a warriors' sport. It's a war and competition," he said. "The first part of what you have to learn to do is to work and compete before you have any chance to display the skill side of the game."

Constantine has never before visited South Korea, but choosing to coach here was "easy" because he has always enjoyed adventures.

"If you could have a life passion that you love to do and add a new adventure into the middle of your life, it's exciting," he said. "It's a life adventure and what I love to do. I've coached for 30 years. I hope I can continue to coach hockey till I am ready to retire." (Yonhap)