There is something about having an interstate rivalry, especially when both teams are good at the same time and even more so when the teams are in the same division, competing for the same playoff spot. Unlike in baseball, football and basketball, this is what the state of Pennsylvania has in hockey.
And with the amount of times the teams meet and what is on the line, the rivalry between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins has become of the greatest, fiercest and perhaps even the most passionate rivalry in all of hockey.
Playing in the same state and both being introduced as expansion teams in the same year, the rivalry between the Penguins and Flyers was destined to happen. And while at first not much was made of it because of the different periods of each team’s success, in recent years the rivalry has really taken on new life as the fans and players really, truly, can’t stand each other.
And of course with a heated rivalry like this one, even the coaches have gotten in on the action. That’s right, Penguins’ head coach Dan Bylsma and Flyers’ head coach Peter Laviolette, once friends, have been known to throw jabs at each other in the name of the rivalry. Laviolette even, in perhaps the moment that most endeared him to Flyers fans, almost attacked Bylsma from the bench.
But now, at least for about two weeks as the NHL season goes on hiatus, Laviolette and Bylsma will be sharing the same bench and the same team. Loyalties still strong, the two head coaches will have to leave it all behind as they head to Sochi, Russia to coach the United States Olympic Team in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
While it is certainly going to be odd to see the head coach of the Penguins and the head coach of the Flyers sharing a bench, the US Olympic Committee is making the right decision having these two helm the men’s team.
Bylsma, who is the head coach for Team USA, has been one of the more successful coaches in recent years, leading his Penguins to the playoffs in each of his four seasons. He is also the fastest coach in the NHL to reach 200 wins.
Laviolette has also been successful as of late, leading the Flyers to three playoff appearances in his four years coaching the team. Since 2006, the year Laviolette was the head coach of the US Team, the American born head coach has become of the most successful and winningest US coaches of all-time in the NHL.
Clearly, the US Team has picked proven winners and two guys with fiery and vocal personalities. Both will know how to push their players and as they have shown with their own teams, how to get the best and full effort out of the players as well. The hopes are that this is the coaching staff that can put together the team that finally helps the US bring down Canada for the gold.
So while the rivalry will still live on in their hearts, for the sake of country, Laviolette and Bylsma will come together cheering only for Team USA.