In 2 weeks' time, Laviolette watched a roster with no-names like Andy Roach, Blake Sloan and Brett Hauer bond together to topple Jaromir Jagr and the Czech Republic in Prague in an elimination game in their sparkling, new arena.
"It was one of my greatest experiences in hockey," Laviolette said yesterday, recalling a 1-0 shootout win over Slovakia for the bronze. "That was not the strongest team on paper. They were all from different places, different leagues, had different roles. It wasn't about a medal or a ranking. They were a terrific group and came together to play hard for their country. That's what it's all about."
For Laviolette, this time around at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, that will mean putting aside the most fiery rivalry in the NHL for 2 weeks in February to serve under Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.
"We're going to go from beating each other up for 4 1/2 months to being on the same team for 12 days. And then we're going to go back to beating each other up again," said Bylsma, who couldn't help but smirk when asked about working with Laviolette at USA Hockey's Olympic orientation camp yesterday in suburban Virginia.
It was only 16 months ago that Laviolette shattered a stick over the boards in Bylsma's direction after accusing the Penguins of gooning it up late in a meaningless, blowout win for the Flyers. Laviolette stood toe-to-toe with Bylsma's assistant, Tony Granato, on top of the dasher board while their players were brawling on the ice.
The fire was stoked again last season when Bylsma mocked Laviolette for his orange ties. Bylsma also revealed that every time he visited Granato's house, he would turn around any photo that featured Laviolette - since Laviolette was a member of Granato's wedding party.
The embers may still linger, but there is also a serious respect factor.
"Immediately in June, when I found out about this position and this team, I went to Peter," Bylsma said. "We've already done [and handled the rivalry issue]. We've spent more time together and talking than this team has. We're not black-and-gold or orange-and-black here. That was immediate right away."
Laviolette is 14-9-3 against Bylsma head-to-head since 2009 and the Flyers ousted Pittsburgh from the playoffs as serious underdogs in 2012 in their only postseason meeting. Bylsma, 42, has the best NHL winning percentage of any American-born coach (.671, 201-92-25) and also has a Stanley Cup on his résumé.
Laviolette is the only one with Olympic coaching experience. Four months before capturing the Stanley Cup with Carolina, Laviolette coached Team USA to a disappointing 1-4-1 record in Turin, Italy.
On the heels of a heartbreaking overtime loss to Canada in the gold-medal game in Vancouver in 2010, the United States won't be sneaking up on anyone in Sochi. But the experience will be slightly different for Laviolette: For the first time in a long time, he will not be the boss on the bench. Laviolette hasn't been an assistant coach at the professional level since 2001.
"I was the assistant coach for my son's pee-wee team in 2009 before being hired by the Flyers," Laviolette said. "But according to my son, I'm not very smart."
Laviolette wants to put his disappointing Olympic coaching experience - particularly adjusting to an Olympic-sized ice surface and a daunting time-zone change in Europe - to good use on Bylsma's staff. He will carry with him that lasting team-building memory from 2004 with him to Sochi.
"Business is business in Philadelphia. And Penguins and Flyers is always fun," Laviolette said. "There's been lots of good conversations. This is not about somebody's ego or what's in it for me. I'm here for my country. I will do anything that Dan asks of me to try and help my country do something we haven't done since 1980."
Not one of the 48 players invited to Team USA's Olympic camp was alive for the 1980 Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid, N.Y. . . . Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was not present for yesterday's orientation camp, but Holmgren will be filing scouting reports on all American players and will have input on Team USA's selection process. Former NHL GMs Brian Burke and Don Waddell will do the bulk of the early scouting . . . Claude Giroux did not participate in Canada's camp in Calgary yesterday, choosing instead to stay in Ottawa to rehab the four torn tendons in his right index finger . . . Burke toured Russia's Olympic facilities in Sochi earlier this year and dubbed them "the best physical setup in Olympic history."
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