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Laviolette chosen to lead U.S. Olympic hockey team

Posted: Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Peter Laviolette was voted off the island — Long Island — when a players' revolt got the coach fired two years ago.

What looked like a low point for Laviolette would put him on the road to coaching the U.S. Olympic hockey team next February in Turin, Italy.

New York Islanders general manager Mike Milbury gave the young coach a shot in 2001 but pulled the plug after two seasons, saying that he'd lost the team despite consecutive playoff appearances.

Since then, Laviolette gained valuable international coaching experience, was hired to lead the Carolina Hurricanes, and on Tuesday was chosen to return to the Olympics, where he has been twice before as a player — including as captain at the 1994 games.

''When you're 30 years old and the Olympics don't end the way you want them to end, it's hard to believe that you might get another crack at it, another shot at it sometime down the road, even if it's in another capacity,'' the 40-year-old Laviolette said.

Laviolette is 97-94-25 in two-plus seasons as an NHL head coach with Carolina and the Islanders. His two trips to the playoffs ended in first-round eliminations.

''We're really pleased to have Peter guiding our Olympic Team,'' Team USA general manager Don Waddell said. ''Peter knows what it takes.

''He's coached our last two world championship teams. He's passionate about the game and we're confident he'll do an outstanding job as our head coach.''

Laviolette coached the United States to the bronze medal in the 2004 world championships, a finish that earned the Americans a spot in the 2006 Olympics. He is the 14th U.S. Olympic coach and the fifth in the last five Olympics. Only seven American coaches have earned medals, with Herb Brooks (1980) and Jack Riley (1960) winning gold.

''When we take the ice, our goal will not be to do well in this tournament. We will as a group be focused on one thing and one thing only and that's winning a gold medal,'' Laviolette said. ''It's something we haven't done in 26 years. The talent is available and we need to take that talent and become a team as quick as possible.''

Laviolette didn't have any specific players in mind yet, but he will begin watching next month during the team's orientation camp in Colorado Springs, Colo. The first half of the NHL season will then go a long way in determining who makes the trip to Italy.

Instead of a strictly veteran-laden team, the makeup should be a mix of older and younger players.

He is familiar with many of the candidates as he coached the U.S. this past spring into the quarterfinals of the world championships, where the Americans lost in a shootout to the Czech Republic.

''I know exactly how I want to play over there. I know the systems I want to use,'' Laviolette said.

His other USA Hockey head coaching experience came in the 2003 Deutschland Cup when Laviolette led the national select team to the title in its second year of participation.

Laviolette was also an assistant coach during the 2004 World Cup of Hockey when the United States lost in the semifinals to runner-up Finland. That was the last time NHL-style hockey was played before the lockout that wiped out all of last season.

''He's done very well with some tournaments, where he put the team together and got them on the ice with little preparation time and did well,'' Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford said. ''He also knows how the international game is played, and he plays an up-tempo style, which is appealing to their program.''

Laviolette took over behind the Hurricanes' bench in December 2003, following the firing of longtime coach Paul Maurice. He went 20-26-6 the rest of the season and the Hurricanes missed the playoffs for a second straight year following their surprising run to the 2002 Stanley Cup finals.

He went 77-68-13-6 during the regular season with the Islanders. As an NHL defenseman, Laviolette failed to record a point in 12 career games.

Waddell said he, assistant GM Paul Holmgren, and director of hockey operations Jim Johannson are working on the rest of the coaching staff.

AP Sports Writer Keith Parsons contributed from Raleigh, N.C.



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