The gold standard
Former Isles coach Laviolette seeks Olympic crown with Team USA
BY ALAN HAHN
September 6, 2005
The boat he once named "Fired" and docked in Huntington harbor during
the summer of 2003 no longer has the same sentimental value. The
bitterness of his divorce from the Islanders that summer no longer
sits in the pit of his stomach.
"It's tough when you leave one place and you're in limbo and not sure
what the future holds," said Peter Laviolette, who opens Olympic
orientation camp today in Colorado Springs as Team USA's head
coach. "But I wouldn't paint the rock-bottom picture."
Two mercurial seasons behind the Islanders' bench could not disrupt
Laviolette's ascension in USA Hockey. He was twice a member of Team
USA in the 1988 and '94 Olympics - the latter being the last without
NHL players - and once he got into coaching, filling the shoes of
Herb Brooks has been his goal.
But even Laviolette admits there is some irony with being fired by
the Islanders, which subsequently led him to become coach of Team
USA. He was without a job during the fall of 2003 when USA Hockey
offered him the opportunity to coach a U.S. team at the unheralded
Deutschland Cup in Germany. Laviolette accepted and led the team to
the tournament championship. A few weeks later, he was hired to
replace Paul Maurice as coach of the Carolina Hurricanes. He then
returned to USA Hockey as coach of the 2004 and '05 world
championships teams and was an assistant to Ron Wilson on the World
Cup team last summer.
Doors opened, as they do, when the Islanders' door closed. But doors
had closed for him with the Boston Bruins, who twice passed on him as
a head coach candidate, when the Islanders welcomed him in as a 36-
year-old NHL coach in 2001.
"If it weren't for Mike Milbury, I wouldn't be coaching here right
now, possibly," Laviolette said. "He stuck his neck out for me way
back when and gave me an opportunity. I will always be thankful to
Mike for doing that."
He and Milbury met at the NHL draft in Ottawa last July and a
handshake was eschewed for a warm embrace.
"Time goes on," Laviolette said. "No coach nowadays starts in one
organization and retires in that organization."
There is plenty of familiarity among the current group of American
players Laviolette has to select from to make his Olympic roster.
Laviolette coached three of them - Jason Blake, Rick DiPietro and
Mark Parrish - with the Islanders. He worked with many others in the
USA Hockey system. The Americans have talent up front and, in
DiPietro, might have found a replacement for Mike Richter in goal.
But defensively, the team is very young and not very deep.
The Olympics open Feb. 10 in Turin, Italy. Laviolette's goal is to be
the first since Brooks' 1980 "Miracle on Ice" team to win Olympic
"Pretty simple, we're going there for the purpose of winning a gold
medal," he said, "and nothing short of that."