RALEIGH, N.C. - A longtime Carolina Hurricanes season ticketholder, Bruce Dunn has no love for the Flyers. He hated them long before Keith Primeau ever went there after a holdout that still leaves a sour taste for many Hurricanes fans.
Yet the bonds Peter Laviolette built with the Hurricanes, their fans and the Research Triangle community are so strong, Dunn will be rooting for the Flyers, not the Blackhawks, when Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals begins tonight.
"I hate Philadelphia, hate them with a passion," Dunn said. "I have no beef at all with Chicago. I don't know them and we play them once a year, whatever it is. I hate Philly. I hate Philly fans. But I'm pulling for Philadelphia because I'd like to see 'Lavi' do well."
Few Hurricanes fans have been surprised by the success Laviolette has had with the Flyers. While most acknowledged it was time for a change when Laviolette was fired in December 2008, they respected and appreciated the work he had done before that.
They are not alone, either. Rod Brind'Amour, who knows Laviolette as well as he knows Philadelphia, would expect no less of his former coach.
"His coaching style isn't X's and O's so much," the Hurricanes and ex-Flyers center said. "I really don't know that that's his specialty. It's more like, he gets you to believe. And at this time of year, that's what it's all about - everyone kind of believing they're going to win, maybe that they're a little bit better than they are."
The good wishes for Laviolette are in stark contrast with the way he exited. Not long after Laviolette's firing, speaking to a local business group, owner Peter Karmanos blasted his former coach, calling the Stanley Cup season "a perfect storm" and painting the coach as impetuous and tactically inflexible.
"I didn't like our coach," Karmanos said. "His public persona and his private persona were two different things."
Karmanos' comments angered Hurricanes fans well aware that Laviolette played a key role in the 2006 championship.
"It was probably the right move [to fire him], but at the end of the day you still feel an attachment," said Dennis O'Connor, a season ticketholder from Concord, N.C., who makes a 6-hour round trip to home games.
"Gosh, he brought the Cup and he brought it in pretty short order. He's a good coach - look what he's done in Philly. At the end of the day, if a guy gives you a Cup, you have to respect that."
Because Laviolette was hired in midseason and fired in midseason, and because his tenure included the lockout, he only had three full seasons with Carolina, but in that relatively short time he had a lasting impact.
On the eve of the 2006 playoffs, one of Laviolette's neighbors in Raleigh, a 6-year-old girl named Julia Rowe, was battling leukemia. Laviolette made her struggle a rallying cry for the team, adopting the slogan "Relentless" and selling wristbands with that slogan to raise money for leukemia research.
Rowe passed away in August 2008, not long before Laviolette was fired, but she was as integral a part of that Stanley Cup championship as the players, in her own way. Laviolette reached out in other, quieter ways, as well, whether in youth hockey or at the Catholic school his children attended.
He is regarded fondly for all of that as much as his accomplishments with the team. His firing and subsequent hiring in Philadelphia did not change that. Even Hurricanes fans rooting for Chicago do it grudgingly, out of respect for the coach.