It's almost difficult to believe that Ted Nolan was only in Buffalo for two years. He still comes up in conversation, more than a decade later.
Nolan grew up in a Native community in Western Ontario, and played hockey for Sault Ste. Marie in the Ontario Hockey Association. He was drafted by the Red Wings in the fifth round of the 1978 Entry Draft. Nolan played professionally through 1986, mostly in the minor leagues, but he did skate for Detroit and Pittsburgh in the NHL.
From there he started his coaching career, beginning back in Sault Ste. Marie. After a stint as an assistant coach with the Hartford Whalers, Nolan was hired as the Sabres' head coach in the summer of 1995. John Muckler gave up his head coaching duties in that move and concentrated on his other job as general manager.
The Sabres weren't too good in 1995-96, but they improved quickly in 1996-97. The Sabres were the surprise division winner that second season, and made it to the second round of the playoffs. Nolan was given the NHL's coach of the year award for his work.
Nolan and Muckler had issues during that time, though, and both men did not return for the 1997-98 season. Nolan turned down a one-year contract offer from new general manager Darcy Regier, and the coach was out of a job. He landed a job with the Islanders nine years later and got New York into the playoffs -- no small task -- but new general manager Garth Snow dismissed him in 2008.
Nolan has worked in Rochester, and lately has been coaching Latvia's national team.
-- Budd Bailey
Sports Ink blog at buffalonews.com/blogs