(Philadelphia, PA) - Long before Peter Laviolette became coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, he was an avid Boston Bruins fan.
But before Flyers fans begin picketing in front of the office of General Manager Paul Holmgren, there's a perfectly good explanation. And that's a good thing considering Laviolette's Flyers must battle those Bruins in an Eastern Conference Semifinal showdown beginning Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN) at TD Garden in Boston.
|Peter Laviolette took over as the Flyers' head coach in December. (Getty Images) |
Growing up in the Boston suburb of Franklin, Mass., Laviolette was extremely passionate about hockey in Beantown. He played collegiately at Westfield (Mass.) State, notching 43 goals and 77 points in four seasons as a defenseman from 1982-83 through 1985-86.
"I was a kid growing up in Massachusetts who played hockey my whole life since I was 4-years-old," Laviolette said. "But don't misinterpret my statements here. I just so happen to be a huge Flyers fan now. But when I was a kid, Boston was the team I watched.
"It was all about (Bobby) Orr, (Phil) Esposito, (Ken) Hodge, (Wayne) Cashman and (Rick) Middleton."
When asked if he remembered the Flyers defeating the Bruins in 1974 on the way to their first of two consecutive Stanley Cups, Laviolette couldn't offer an opinion. "I have a bad memory," he said. "I was about 10 years old at the time."
Unlike today's youngsters, though, Laviolette had no alternative to watching the Bruins.
"I think when you're a kid that age, growing up and learning to play hockey, you're a fan of the team that's close," Laviolette said. "It wasn't like a hockey package where you can surf around and say, 'I'm going to watch the Sharks tonight and see if I like the Sharks better.' Not that the Sharks would have been, but back then, kids were just passionate about their (hometown) team."
Laviolette would go on to lead the American Hockey League's Providence Bruins to a Calder Cup in 1998-99, finishing the regular season 56-15-4 en route to AHL Coach of the Year honors. His success would land him a spot as an assistant coach to Mike Keenan with the NHL's Bruins. But after being passed over for the head coaching position the following season -- Robbie Ftorek would replace Keenan -- he took over as coach of the New York Islanders, where he'd spend two seasons.
"My allegiance hasn't been in Boston since I left as an assistant coach, and that's not being disrespectful to Boston, it's just the nature of coaching," he said. "When I was coaching the Islanders, I could care less about Boston. Those days are gone and I'm not a kid anymore. Bobby Orr still doesn't wear No. 4 on the ice out there -- those days are gone.
"I'm fortunate enough to be a coach in the National Hockey League and I'm passionate about the Philadelphia Flyers. I'll do what's best for this club."
When asked if he still harbored any negativity toward Boston about being passed over as head coach a decade ago, Laviolette shook his head.
"Everything in life happens for a reason," he said.
At this stage in his life, Laviolette's sole purpose behind the bench is to lead the Flyers to another playoff series win, this time against the team he adored as a kid. And, quite frankly, he'd have it no other way.