BUFFALO – Not that he really had to prove himself, but Garden River First Nation’s Ted Nolan made a lot of heads turn when he led team Latvia in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Team Latvia made it to the quarterfinals for the first time ever under Nolans leadership.
Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray may have been watching too, and this week he announced that Nolan, who was brought back to the Sabers organization as an interim coach since November, has been signed to a three-year contract as Sabers’ permanent head coach.
“We are very happy to get this deal done and to have Ted Nolan as our permanent head coach going forward,” Murray said in a media release. “Teddy has proven time and again that he is an exceptional leader, motivator and teacher. He is exactly what we need in a head coach for our hockey team and we’re confident in his ability to guide our players and turn this team around.”
Nolan won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s coach of the year in 1996-97 but was fired the following year after he and John Muckler butted heads over how to handle sensitive and demanding goaltender Dominek Hasek, who at that time was a superstar… and knew it. Muckler was a member of the NHL good-ol-boys club and some say Nolan blackballed for challenging Muckler’s authority in Buffalo.
Ted Nolan spent his time away from coaching in the National Hockey League but kept busy by working on the Rose Nolan Memorial Scholarship fund, named in honor of his late mother who along with his father taught him to be proud of his heritage. Ted was asked to coach a team of young Aboriginal Players to represent the Assembly of First Nations in an international tournament, where they would participate as a separate nation.
Nolan eventually made his way back to the “bigs” when he was called to coach the New York Islanders before being called back to the Buffalo organization when Ron Rolston was fired in November. Initially, it was an interim position, but Nolan and Murray have come to a new agreement that will see Nolan head coach for the next three years past his interim contract.
“I said back in November that it was a dream to be able to come back and coach the Sabres and that’s still true today,” Nolan said. “Hockey is my life and Buffalo is a special place for hockey. I’m excited by the challenge facing our team and our organization and I’m truly thankful to have this opportunity.”