Love for game motivates ex-Sabre coach
By Ian Ross
Ted Nolan holds no grudges against the Buffalo Sabres.
While his former team is enjoying the greatest success in the franchise's history and appear to be on the brink of the Stanley Cup final, the ex-Sabre head coach is still happy and active behind the bench. This time, however, his all-stars don't have multi-million dollar contracts or inflated egos. In fact, they are still shaving the peach fuzz from their faces on a monthly basis.
The Niagara Ice Dogs, a collection of 15 and 16-year old regional all-stars, now claim the privilege of being guided by the 1996/97 National Hockey League coach of the year. The team arrived in St. Thomas with their pro coach for a three day tournament last week.
Nolan became active with the team after political differences with Buffalo management and star goaltender Dominik Hasek required that he seek out greener pastures. With only the lowly Tampa Bay Lightning putting forward any interest, he decided to take the year off to explore other options.
"This has been a great experience for me," Nolan said. "My son is on the team and this gives me a great opportunity to coach him. This brings me to the level that the game should always be at. Unfortunately, sometimes politics takes over the sport and that's sad."
Reworking his coaching style to focusing on the basics, Nolan has also pushed having fun on the ice with even weight.
"The only thing you have to do in hockey is enjoy the sport and your skill ability will develop from there," he said, referring to his philosophy of coaching no matter what level of skill a coach is dealing with.
The response from his pupils has been positive in regards to both Nolan's coaching methods and his high profile status.
"We try to represent Mr. Nolan as best we can," said Ice Dog winger Blake Williams. "He's really helped us with the basics of the game. I think it also intimidates the other teams' players having Mr. Nolan behind the bench."
Through the eyes of Nolan, coaching these young all-stars is not really a demotion but rather a chance to enjoy hockey in its purest form. He notes that his involvement with the Ice Dogs is an extension of the clinics and camps that he runs in the off-season.
"I enjoy the game whether it is pond hockey or a group of kids playing street ball," Nolan said. "This is more about enjoying myself right now before I get back into the National Hockey League."
With the Ice Dogs more than halfway through their summer schedule and many NHL teams looking to make changes, Nolan admits that his return to the professional ranks is near.
"There are a couple things going on right now but I would like to hold that private until I sign on the dotted line."