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Konowalchuk resigns from Rebels for personal reasons

Served the Rebels for two full seasons
Steve Konowalchuk has stepped down as the head coach of the Red Deer Rebels after two seasons leading the team. (File photo by Advocate staff)

The Red Deer Rebels coaching staff will look a lot different next season.

On Thursday morning the Rebels announced head coach Steve Konowalchuk has resigned as the Rebels bench boss due to personal and family reasons.

Furthermore, assistant coach Ryan Colville, who was a part of the organization for five seasons, has also stepped down.

Konowalchuk coached the Rebels for the last two seasons and still had one more year left on his contract.

He told The Advocate that the situation in Red Deer from a competitive aspect is very hard to leave but ultimately he wanted to be closer to family.

“At this point in my life, my wife and I talked it over and we want to put family first in a situation where I can be around more,” he said.

He’s not ruling out a return to coaching but it will need to be a good fit for the entire family, his kids included. In the offseason, he resides in Seattle, Wash. which is also where he served as head coach of the Seattle Thunderbirds for six seasons from 2011-2017.

In two seasons with the Rebels, the 2021-22 central division coach of the year produced an 86-36-3-3 regular season record and two playoff series wins.

This included at least 40 wins in back-to-back seasons which hadn’t been done in Red Deer since 2001-03. They also won the Central Division title this season for the first time in over a decade.

“It was a very good experience and an enjoyable two years,” he said. “A part of the reason I came to Red Deer on a personal side my dad was up in Leduc and I was able to spend some time with him before he passed away. A year ago my in-laws were in Prince Albert so when I talk about life balance that was good.

“I met some friends in Red Deer, the community was awesome, and I think we had two very successful seasons. Disappointed you can’t win it all but I enjoyed working with the players and hopefully they learned something on and off the ice.”

With the birth of a grandchild, Konowalchuk explained his wife spent a lot of time away from Red Deer. It made him reflect on how much he’s sacrificing to coach.

“Just trying to find that balance and I don’t know if you always can in this business. Ever since hockey, I’ve been in a suitcase since I was 16 years old living from city to city,” he said.

“At some point, you’ve got to make sure it’s a good balance and I think during the second part of the season I started to weigh if all my needs and family needs were getting fulfilled or just my hockey needs.”

Rebels Owner, President, and General Manager Brent Sutter said coaching junior hockey is not an easy job.

“In today’s game and everything involved in it there’s a lot of stress and he was having some personal and family things that were coming up that for him made it seem like it wasn’t worth doing,” he said.

“Was it disappointing? Sure, he was a good coach and a good man. But at the end of the day, I understand fully.”

Sutter explained assistant coach Ryan Colville, who lives in Cincinnati during the summer, was hoping to find a coaching position closer to home.

“He’s a great guy, good man, and he did a really good job. His contract was up and we both knew as we got near the end of the year there was a possibility this would be happening,” he said.

Now the search for a new head coach begins.

Sutter explained he’s not sure if he’ll step back into the head coaching role he once held from 1999-2007 and from 2012-2021 but it depends on what other options are available. He hopes to acquire someone with pro experience and he’ll also need to take input from the players, in particular the older players.

“I know what type of coach that we need to have, that I want to have. The way the message has to be given across to the players has certainly changed over time and coaches that adapt and adjust do well at it,” he said.

“The COVID-19 season was a really tough year. It wasn’t that easy for me it just wasn’t a lot of fun… I was stressed out every day about it. The passion you need to have to be a coach at that point in time wasn’t there but to be honest I settled into the management role very well.”

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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