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Laviolette puts talk of his future on hold

Journal Sports Writer

PROVIDENCE -- Less than 48 hours after guiding the Providence Bruins into the American Hockey League history books by winning the first Calder Cup in franchise history and finishing with more total victories than any other AHL team, coach Peter Laviolette was kept busy yesterday answering questions
about his immediate future.

``All I want to do now is enjoy winning the Calder Cup,'' Laviolette said in his office as he held individual sessions with his players before they head home after today's parade and tonight's rally at the Civic Center.

Interest centered on Laviolette when it was revealed that Bob Francis, one-time Providence Bruins head coach and a Boston assistant with Pat Burns for the last two years, was to be named the new head coach of the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes.

Francis and Laviolette are close friends.

``I heard from Bob, and he congratulated us for winning the championship, but he didn't say a word about taking the job in Phoenix,'' Laviolette said.

There was speculation that Laviolette might be asked by Francis to be an assistant coach with the Coyotes, or might be promoted to an assistant coaching position with Boston.

``I have no control over what people are saying,'' Laviolette said. ``All I can say is I love my job here with Providence. I'm under contract to Boston for one more year. I haven't heard from anyone. I have nothing else to say.''

Any team interested in Laviolette's services would have to ask Boston for permission to talk to him.

At least one unidentified Providence player thought there was a good chance Laviolette would go with Francis to Phoenix. Others, however, say the young Providence coach, who guided the team to 71 victories in 99 games, would be best served by staying at least one more year as the head coach with
Providence and wait for an NHL head-coaching position to open up.

Providence assistant coach Bill Armstrong is hoping to get his situation finalized soon. He had a one-year contract with Providence.

``But I'm keeping my options open, too. If a head-coaching job opened up in the East Coast League, I'd have to take a look at the situation,'' Armstrong said. ``We'll see where things go.''

In the meantime, Laviolette spent time meeting with his players.

``We talk about the year they had, and I tell them that as far as next season is concerned, I have no say on what Boston does. I wish them the best of luck in training camp, and that I'm being paid to coach here,''
Laviolette said.

Defensemen Terry Virtue and Steve Bancroft still are banged up. Virtue had an MRI on his injured left knee yesterday while Bancroft complained of back spasms. Both sat out Sunday night's title clincher. Bancroft said he he likely will miss today's festivities and begin a nine-hour drive home to Ontario.

Captain Dennis Vaske said he will head home to Minnesota and help out on his family's farm during the summer. As for playing next year, Vaske, who turns 32 in October, said he is uncertain about a return to the game. He said he's heard from a few teams, but added that it will take him a while to decide what he wants to do.

Defenseman Elias Abrahamsson, who delivered a solid effort in the championship clincher, said he will go home to Sweden and begin skating with a number of Swedish professional players, including Toronto's Mats Sundin.  Abrahamsson is expected to play for Providence again next season.

Laviolette talked yesterday about Providence's playoff MVP, Peter Ferraro, who finished the postseason with nine goals and 12 assists. Ferraro was reassigned from Boston to Providence on March 8. He wound up with 15 goals in only 16 regular-season games for the P-Bruins.

``I know he was down about coming here for the first few games, but he saw what was happening here and turned it around,'' Laviolette said. ``He's a tough competitor, and was all over the ice when the games meant something.  He could be a 50-goal scorer in this league if he played a full season here.''

Laviolette and his team will be honored during a city-wide celebration today. A noon parade will begin on Sabin Street, where the Westin Hotel and the Convention Center meet, and wind up at City Hall. Tonight at 7, there will be a celebration of the Calder Cup title at the Civic Center. Tickets are $3, with proceeds going to the Hasbro Children's Hospital. Season-ticket holders can use tickets marked home game 12 to enter the building. The Calder Cup will be on display, as will the Canning Trophy (Eastern Conference champions), the Kilpatrick Trophy (regular-season champions) and the Oke Trophy (New England Division champions).

Copyright 1999 The Providence Journal Company

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