Dear Ted: I noticed the Buffalo Sabres didn't bother to publicly acknowledge your visit to HSBC Arena on Monday, so I'm writing to remind you people cared that you were in town. The evidence was in the banner hanging on the suite level above Section 111 that read: WELCOME BACK TED NOLAN.
I'm not suggesting the Sabres should have held a pregame ceremony or erected a statue in your honor, but it would have been nice had they recognized the only coach in 26 seasons to guide them to a division title. It would not have killed them to show your face for a few seconds on the $4 million Jumbotron.
After all, they made time for Grimace, the McDonald's character, and Homer Simpson. They could have at least displayed one of the signs supporting you that were sprinkled throughout the arena, but apparently they couldn't cram you into all the action during their 3-1 victory over your New York Islanders.
It was your first trip behind the bench in HSBC Arena since 1997, when the team you coached lost in the second round of the playoffs. I'm sure you remember the dark days that followed. Fans obviously did, which is why so many thanked you in the lobby of your hotel Sunday night.
Good thing Versus noted your return on its broadcast when the game began. Later, it flashed back to the second-round series against the Flyers, when Steve Shields punched out the guy who's now your general manager, Garth Snow.
Apparently, the Sabres still hold a few hard feelings even though you were a popular coach and spent nearly a decade in exile. Quietly, several people in the organization didn't give a hoot if you ever came back. Maybe that's why nobody offered best wishes or took time to say hello during your brief stay.
You're right. It was pretty sad.
I know that hurt, but it was a tricky situation. The Sabres weren't required to go out of their way for you. The visiting coach is never announced before the game. But you were a worthy exception. You were a community treasure for two years. You inspired the entire town before the whole thing fell apart.
You won the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year following the 1996-97 season after taking a great goalie in Dominik Hasek and a bunch of plumbers to the division title. The Sabres offered you a one-year contract. Based on the supporters marching outside the arena, you weren't the only one who found it insulting.
Don't get me wrong, Ted. General Manager Darcy Regier made a wise decision when he hired Lindy Ruff to replace you. Ruff is a terrific coach, which you readily acknowledge every time you're asked. Darcy didn't feel comfortable giving you a long-term deal. That's his prerogative. I just thought it would be a touch of class to make note of your return and let the bygones be bygones.
Obviously, they disagreed.
The only explanation I can offer is that the Sabres feared any public mention of your return would draw a few cheers, maybe even a standing ovation. I'm not sure if ignoring you altogether was an intentional slap in the face, but it was a disservice to their fans.
I must say, though, that fans don't attend games to watch a coach pace behind the bench. The Sabres would have sold out Monday's game whether it was you or Ted Kennedy behind the Isles' bench. But it would have been nothing for them to offer you and the fans an opportunity to recognize each other.
By the way, I noticed you're building the same type of team on Long Island that you had in Buffalo. People had you guys pegged for last place, but there you were a point behind the second-place New York Rangers. It was good to see you can still coach after all these years. It was good to see you coaching, period.