Capitals coach was headed for beer league hockey before realizing dream

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Laviolette was set on beer league before realizing coaching dream originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Capitals coach Peter Laviolette wasn't planning on becoming an NHL coach. He wasn't even planning on playing after college. 

After excelling on a talented Franklin High School team but without being a hot commodity for Division I recruiters, Laviolette stayed home in Massachusetts to play at Westfield State College.

"Going into Westfield, there was no master plan to play hockey. There was no master plan to coach in the NHL someday," Laviolette told Caps reporter Mike Vogel on his "Break the Ice" podcast on the first day of rookie camp. 

"When it ended, I had my resume out in the real world. I thought it (my playing career) was over," said Laviolette. "That's it. Men's league, beer league and that sort of thing."

He planned on using his business degree to work in the real world, but then got a call from a New England-based scout named Al "Smokey" Cerrone for the Minnesota North Stars. 

That phone call changed Laviolette's life trajectory forever. His tryout with the North Stars was the start of a lengthy minor-league playing career. Laviolette got the chance to play in a dozen games for the New York Rangers during the 1988-89 season. He even got to play on a couple of Olympic teams, too, in 1988 and 1994. 

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But after 11 seasons and at age 29, Laviolette knew he couldn't be a minor-league player forever and again looked for alternate working options. A captain for the Boston Bruins' AHL team in Providence, Laviolette was asked to become a player-assistant coach. Unaware of his passion for coaching at that point, it took a fractured leg to find out how much he enjoyed spending time in the coach's room. 

When the Providence head coaching gig opened up that offseason, Laviolette's lack of experience meant he wasn't granted an interview. A year with the East Coast Hockey League's Wheeling Nailers gave Laviolette the hands-on experience to learn the ins and outs of not only coaching, but roster management as well. 

"From where it was, I was pretty fortunate to get that far and you're still not thinking about coaching," Laviolette said. "And so here I am I'm going to be 57 years old here and I can't believe how fortunate I am to still be in the game because it was never a plan. It was not something I sat back and said this is the path I'm going to take." 

From his first day at rookie camp as a first-year head coach with the Islanders being on 9/11 to his first season with Washington occurring during a pandemic, Laviolette has had to cope with plenty of obstacles during his two-decade head coaching career.

Laviolette said he met Alex Ovechkin's wife for the first time just last week, the first player's spouse he's met in the organization. That human side was too often missing last season and something he's looking forward toward finding in 2021-22.

"Again, everyone was dealt the same hand but as a new coach I found it difficult coming in navigating that," Laviolette said.