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Former Sabres Coach Ted Nolan Says He Was 'Too Honest' in PuckLife Interview PDF Print E-mail
Articles and Opinions
Written by Matthew Coller   
Monday, 31 May 2010 18:17

Ted Nolan

One of hockey’s most polarizing figures, former Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders coach Ted Nolan, spoke to PuckLife Magazine last week on racism and his departure from the NHL.  Less than a week later, Nolan says he regrets being so candid.

In an interview with Biz of Hockey’s Matthew Coller on “The Blue Line Show” on SportsRadio 950 ESPN in Rochester, NY, Nolan said he was too honest about racism in the PuckLife interview, but still believes racism exists in the NHL.  Nolan also said he wants back in to the NHL. 

Select READ MORE to see the full transcript of the interview

Matthew Coller:

My first question after reading the PuckLife article was what is the main factor in you not coaching in the NHL right now?

Ted Nolan:

Well, you come to learn to appreciate that people have different opinions and views and they are going to select who they think is best to coach their hockey club.  That’s all I really wanted to say in the whole thing.  When you’re younger and you don’t know how to handle it and you’re too emotionally erupt but the biggest thing is that, if you don’t get hired, that’s fine. But, when people try to make assumptions and reasons why you shouldn’t get hired versus a different choice, that’s where the confusion part for me was.  So, I just really wanted to get that out and put it to bed and forget about it.


In the article you talk about ‘misconceptions,’ what misconceptions were you referring to?


Nolan quoteWhen I was in Buffalo, I thought things were going well then all the sudden people have misconceptions that I can’t work with somebody because somebody started a rumor that you’re very difficult to work with.  Then other rumors start and that’s where all the misconceptions and lies started and it just kind of snowballed and like I said, I just really wanted to forget about that and move on.  There’s a lot more important things in life than listening to rumors.  I still think I’m a good coach but coaching does not define who I am as a man it’s just something that I did and I think I’m very good at it and I still want to continue to do it.  Whether I do or not, or get another opportunity is yet to be seen.


Let’s say I’m a GM and I say “Ted, I need a winner, but I’ve heard you’re tough to deal with,” what do you say to me?


That’s the thing, you check with people who have worked with me, I don’t think anybody is going to bat one thousand where everybody gets a long with everybody, but for the vast majority of the time….you know, I started the Ted Nolan Foundation where we give out scholarships to First Nation kids, I’ve been doing that for a number of years and had the great honor and privilege of working with Mr. Irving from Irving Oil up in Eastern Canada, I worked with him for a year and we still have a great relationship and he’s on the board (of the Ted Nolan Foundation) and I’m worked with the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation, these are two gentlemen and organizations that just don’t associate themselves with anyone.  I take great pride in that, so the biggest thing is, do some research and check with the people that I work with and form your own opinion.


You mention racism in PuckLife Magazine, can you expand on racism in an all-white NHL?

Nolan quoteTN:

Well, anybody who thinks it doesn’t exist, you have to get your head out of the sand.  It’s alive, and hopefully not too well.  It’s one of those things we have to continue to fight to show that just because we’re from a different race or of a different skin color doesn’t make us any less important.  When you get into an environment where you are different, it takes a little while for people to accept you.  I don’t coach the way Scotty Bowman coaches, I am who I am, I do things different ways.  When you don’t do things the status quo as everybody else, it just seems like you are different and sometimes it takes people a while to understand that and appreciate it.  That’s the biggest thing.

I work with Curt Styres down in Rochester, NY, and this is the first time I’ve ever had a chance to work with a First Nation ownership.  It is totally night and day difference.  We just hired a colleague of mine, he was in Long Island, and he said this is the best work environment he’s ever worked with; different ways of being raised and different attitudes.


Was it a more comfortable situation in Rochester because Styres is First Nation?


No question.  Everybody goes to the same school and kind of have an understanding of the mannerisms and traits and strengths and weaknesses.  Being raised in our communities, we are no different.  We have a great sense of humor.  We don’t get yelled at, screamed at or demeaned and everybody is important.  Lewis Staats, who is the president, he almost seems like he’s just a colleague of ours.  He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever worked for.  He’s our boss and he’s our leader and it just works out very well and I’ve had a great time.


You mention “yelled at, screamed at,” are you referring to something in particular?  Are you referring to the situation in Buffalo?

Nolan quoteTN:

No, everybody takes one comment and generalize it to one incident.  I had a great time in Buffalo.  I loved Buffalo and the way I got treated there; I couldn’t ask for better treatment. I had a disagreement with a couple gentlemen and that’s it.  I love going to Buffalo and I love the people there.  I’ve been to a lot of places and Buffalo is one of my favorite sports for sure.


Ted, have you thought that talking about the rumors, coming out and telling the entire truth and maybe people would forgive and forget?


I’m not asking for any forgiveness for what I did, they hired me to coach a hockey club, that’s it.  It’s just a hockey game.  Although it’s great entertainment and it’s a lot of fun and enjoyed doing it, but when you put it in the big scope of life, am I looking for apologizes or forgiveness?  No, I’m not.  It’s just one of those things that happened, a lot of people went through a situation similar to mine, unfortunately I’m in the sports world so it puts me on the front page every once in a while.  I’m not looking for forgiveness, the guy (from PuckLife) asked me a few questions and I answered them as honestly as I could.  Sometimes I answer them too much.

It was kind of disrespectful to my wife reading all that junk, but that’s the last time I’m going to talk about it, that’s it.  I just want to enjoy doing what I do.  I enjoy the foundation, I enjoy working in hockey and hopefully one day I will have a chance to work in the National Hockey League again.  If that doesn’t happen, I’m still very content.


Did you do the interview with PuckLife to get back in the news to let everyone know you want back in the NHL?

Nolan quoteTN:

I’ve never kept that a secret.  I’ve always wanted to coach again. I’m just waiting for a team that’s looking for a coach like myself to come in and make a difference.  I think I’m very good at uniting a group of people toward a common goal and that’s obviously to win the Stanley Cup.  I’d love to do it again and I have a lot of fun doing it.  I think the players enjoyed playing for me.  Hopefully it will but, like I said, I can’t control anything else but who I am and hopefully I’ll get that chance down the road.


What are the chances you get back in the NHL?


I stopped guessing a long time ago, when I got let go from Buffalo, I never thought I’d be a coach again in the National Hockey League.  After three or four years of trying, I sent our resumes and hired agents but you get to a point where maybe it just isn’t meant to be and I just focus on my foundation….you can’t predict what’s going to happen.  The only thing I can work on is now.  Point black:  I’m hoping to get back in.



Matthew Coller is a staff member of the Business of Sports Network, and is a freelance writer. He can be followed on Twitter

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