Now a coach, Laperriere promises not to change

Now a coach, Laperriere promises not to change
October 13, 2013, 9:00 am

Ian Laperriere talks to Flyers captain Claude Giroux during Tuesday's game against Florida -- Laperriere's first as an assistant coach. (USA Today Images)

Ian Laperriere was in Seattle, preparing to fly to British Columbia to scout Flyers prospects when his cell phone rang.
 
It was general manager Paul Holmgren. He wanted to know if the 39-year-old former player was still interested in coaching.
 
Laperriere didn’t even bother to call his wife, Magali, to discuss another career change.
 
“She knows, trust me,” he said. “I’ve been with my wife 22 years. When Homer asked me to coach, I said, ‘Yes.’ That was the goal -- to be in coaching.”
 
Just like that, late last Sunday night, Laperriere went from the club’s director of player development, to Craig Berube’s staff as a bench coach specializing on the penalty kill.
 
The difference? As a development person, the proof is four or five years down the line with prospects. As an assistant NHL coach, coaching is immediate.
 
“I’ve always liked Lappy,” Berube said. “He knows the guys well. The communication from the work ethic standpoint, it’s real important our players can see a player like that and know what he did.”
 
John Paddock is an older assistant working with the defense. The organization liked the idea of having a younger coach, recently removed from his playing career, working and relating to younger players in the dressing room.
 
It made sense using Laperriere.
 
“I’m more excited and nervous than anything else,” he said. “Homer said to me, ‘Just be yourself,’ and so far, it took me pretty far in life just being myself and that’s what I’m going to do.
 
“I’m going to be myself around the boys, too. I played with a couple of those guys and that’s the dangerous thing. I won’t change. I will be myself. If I changed I would be a hypocrite and not comfortable with that.”
 
Good cop, bad cop in the dressing room?
 
“I don’t know,” Laperriere said. “Chief is Chief and they know that and I will be myself. Good cop, bad cop doesn’t work anymore. It’s not 1970 that you will scare those guys.
 
“You won’t. You need to find the right button to get them going. They are all different. That is our job -- to find a way.
 
“Make sure they are happy to come to the rink every day and coming to work. And they are going to work. That is one thing I noticed. To play at the high level they need to play, they need to be in better shape.”
 
Laperriere is yet another in the Flyers’ organization who says the club on the ice this fall was poorly conditioned. Again, it may have had something to do with having so many players in training camp where the emphasis was on teaching systems -- not conditioning, per se.
          
This week has seen the Flyers do an extraordinary amount of cardio to get their legs moving. Laperriere is the ideal role model for a pro athlete. He’s the only member of the club who has competed in an Ironman competition.
 
He completed the Ironman North American Championship at Mont-Tremblant (Quebec) in 12:11:55 this past August, finishing 124th among 258 in the men’s 35-39 age category.
 
Don’t think for a minute that doesn’t resonate with players -- to have someone competing at something many pro players couldn’t do.
 
“Lappy’s a huge role model,” said Zac Rinaldo, one of Laperriere’s so-called “project” players on the PK units. “He’s given me a lot of pointers that I hadn’t even thought of that have come into play.”
 
Laperriere spent 16 years in the NHL with five clubs, the last being the Flyers before he took a puck to the face that ended his career three springs ago.
 
He picked up things from players his entire life. From Joe Sakic, Pierre Turgeon and Rob Blake in Colorado; from coaches Larry Robinson and Andy Murray in Los Angeles.
 
“As a player I would look around the room and pick up good stuff from all the things from my teammates -- the good stuff -- and I did that with my coaches too, both good stuff and the bad stuff,” Laperriere said.
 
“I told them that at the development. If you are smart, you will look around the room and pick little things that can help you become a better player. I did that as a player. I did that with my coaches.”
 
He said he kept “only the good stuff” he learned along the way to impart on others now.
 
Murray taught him about focusing on that night’s game.
 
“Preparation-wise, Andy Murray was the best prepared coach I ever played for,” Laperriere said. “He wasn’t perfect, no one is, I mean I played for Mike Keenan [in St. Louis] too, and I don’t think I’m going to take too many tips from him.
 
“It doesn’t work today. Those coaches don’t last. It was the 90s when he coached me. He scared me.”
 
He credits Robinson as his biggest influence behind the bench.
 
“Larry Robinson was a guy I really liked with his approach,” Laperriere said. “He’s a real good assistant. He’s personable, has a great pedigree. He won so many Cups and is in the Hall of Fame.
 
“But his biggest quality is how he talks to guys and how he makes them feel like he cares about them and wants to make them better. That’s what our job is -- to help those guys become better. If they make the team better, everyone will be happy.”
 
Laperriere will handle the Flyers' penalty-killing units under Berube. That was his forte. It was also how he became an injured player, taking a puck to the face in New Jersey -- he never wore a shield -- during the 2010 playoffs.
 
The Flyers have had good penalty-killing units the past several seasons.
 
“You can always improve,” Laperriere said. “Even the best power play or PK in the league, there is always room for improvement. Good stick position. When to go and when not to go.”
 
Happy in this new role behind the bench?
 
Yes, he said, but ...
 
“Ask me that question in four years,” he cautioned.