Flyers' Peter Laviolette and Penguins' Dan Bylsma: The coaching Odd Couple

NBC Peter Laviolette points to Penguins coaches Dan Bylsma (background) and Tony Granato during April 1, 2012 game.
NBC Peter Laviolette points to Penguins coaches Dan Bylsma (background) and Tony Granato during April 1, 2012 game.
Posted: July 25, 2013

ASIDE FROM the chewing gum and timely timeouts, it is the indelible image of Peter Laviolette's tenure with the Flyers.

April 1, 2012. Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh. Game No. 79.

Laviolette, walking the tightrope that is the dasherboards between benches, climbed past the protective Plexiglas separating the Flyers and Penguins and shattered Max Talbot's stick in frustration in the direction of Penguins coach Dan Bylsma - on national television.

Standing in the way was Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato. The anger was palpable. After the game, Laviolette called Bylsma "gutless" for sending his checking line on the ice in the final minute of a game the Flyers won, 6-4. Joe Vitale crushed Danny Briere with a thunderous check to light the powder keg.

Next February, Laviolette, Bylsma and Granato will all be on one bench together.

USA Hockey announced yesterday that Laviolette will be one of Bylsma's assistant coaches for Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Laviolette, 48, was the head coach of Team USA in 2006 at the Turin Olympics. Granato and Columbus assistant Todd Richards will be the other assistant coaches.

The Daily News first wrote about this possibility on Feb. 20. Bylsma, the clear front-runner for the job, was named head coach of Team USA on June 29.

"Getting together with Dan Bylsma, we talked about a lot of different candidates, different roles and chemistry. This is the group we came up with," Team USA and Nashville general manager David Poile said yesterday. "All four of our coaches have been a head coach in the National Hockey League. I think that speaks volumes about how far USA Hockey has come. We're really happy to have everyone on board. It's a fabulous staff."

Laviolette was fined $10,000 by the NHL for that very public shouting match with Bylsma and Granato. Granato was fined $2,500. Both men were ejected from the game - the first time a Flyers coach had been thrown out of a game in at least 15 years.

Seemingly, the anger never really subsided. The Flyers-Penguins rivalry is not only the best in hockey, but perhaps currently one of the best in all of sports - and the feud between coaches added to it all.

In February, Bylsma joked that he didn't like Laviolette's orange ties.

Interestingly, sources close to the situation say it was Granato who helped lobby on Laviolette's behalf to Bylsma. Granato has been Bylsma's assistant since 2009. Apparently, Granato's message was that Bylsma and Laviolette are coaches with a similar, burning passion. They're more alike than they probably realize.

"I know Tony from way back," Laviolette said in February. "You want to write a sentimental story today? I'm going to pass on the sentiment today and focus on how we can take care of the Penguins tonight. Tony and I are good friends. Time passes on and you lose touch a little bit with friends, but Tony's a good guy."

Laviolette and Granato are the same age. They played together when they were young - including the only 12 games Laviolette played in the NHL, for the Rangers in 1988-89. They were also on the U.S. national team together in 1987-88.

When Granato got married, Laviolette was at the wedding. Bylsma said that when he visited Granato's house for a party, he turned the wedding photos around so he wouldn't have to look at Laviolette.

Now, they will not only need to look at each other, but they will need to put their heads together - for the good of America.

On Twitter: @DNFlyers


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