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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A drama ends

   June 30, 1997 -- One of the longest-running soap operas in Buffalo sports history -- more than a year, in a sense -- came to an end this day. The Sabres and Ted Nolan parted ways after Nolan had coached the team for the previous two seasons.

   Nolan and Sabres general manager John Muckler had not gotten along during Nolan's tenure in Buffalo. Muckler was let go shortly after the team was eliminated from the playoffs, and he was replaced by Darcy Regier.

   After evaluating the situation, Regier flew to Nolan's summer home in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to tell Nolan in person that he would not be back in the fall.

   "The first thing he said [in the meeting] was, 'We're not going to extend your contract. We're going to go in a different direction,' " Nolan said that night.

   The Sabres had offered Nolan a one-year extension of his contract, but he indicated that he would reject that deal. 

   "I thought there would be some room to negotiate," he said. "I'm an optimist. I guess I was hoping for something that wasn't going to be there. I'm really hurt and disillusioned by the whole thing. I'm going to get some rest and then get someone to call some teams."

   Regier eventually hired Lindy Ruff as the coach of the Sabres, and that combination remains on the job as of today. Nolan had trouble finding work despite winning coach of the year honors in 1996-97. He finally coached the Islanders for two years, and now works with the Rochester Americans.

 --- Budd Bailey

   This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Billy Dee Smith, Bandits defender - 1982.

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