Ted Nolan's contract with the Sabres ran through the 2016-17 season and he's finally off Terry Pegula's books. So now the two-time former Buffalo coach has a new job in hockey.
Nolan, 59, has been named the coach of the Polish National Team and was introduced in Warsaw on Tuesday. His staff will include Tom Coolen, an assistant under him during his second stint with the Sabres from 2013-2015.
“I love challenges. I’ve always been an underdog my whole life," Noln said in an article posted on the Web site of the International Ice Hockey Federation. "When this opportunity came and seeing where Polish hockey has been for a while, hopefully I can make a difference and rise up to a higher level. I’m really looking forward. It’s probably my biggest challenge to date and my biggest excitement to date."
Poland has not been in the IIHF's top division since 2002 and is looking for Nolan to work some of the same magic he did with Latvia, which nearly sprung an upset of Team Canada during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
"We count on the Canadian hockey school. This country has been the best in the world in recent years and I’m glad we have been able to find an agreement with such a great coach,” said Polish federation president Dawid Chwalka. "Ted Nolan has worked not long ago in Latvia and knows European hockey. We expect that with this staff we will reach improved results."
"I looked at when they’ve been in the top division competing against the bigger nations and they haven’t been for a while so I’m really looking forward to getting to that level," Nolan said of the Poles. "You have to be very tactical. You have to know what you’re doing, you need to be aggressive, hard-nosed, hard-working. If you compete hard, work hard and play smart, great things can happen."
Nolan won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's coach of the year for the Sabres in 1997 but walked away from the job when then-new general manager Darcy Regier offered him only a one-year contract.
He was out of hockey for many years before returning to coach the New York Islanders for two years from 2006-08. Nolan made a dramatic return to Buffalo in Nov. 2013, when Regier and head coach Ron Rolston were fired with Pat LaFontaine hired as president and bringing his former star player back as coach.
Nolan went 40-87-17 in his second stint with the Sabres and was fired by general manager Tim Murray the day after Buffalo's 2014-15 tank season ended with a 23-51-8 record.
Coolen, who was also fired with Nolan, is currently head coach of GKS Katowice in the Polish elite league. He also assisted Nolan with Latvia in Sochi.