A former NHL coach spent a day in Saskatoon connecting with and inspiring young athletes.
Ted Nolan, who won NHL Coach of the Year with the Buffalo Sabres in 1997, was the keynote guest for several forums at the University of Saskatchewan on Monday.
From Ontario’s Garden River First Nation, Nolan made the NHL in 1981 and from then on has worked to help other First Nations youth chase that dream.
“I called my brother and told him ‘I’m going to go share my story,” Nolan said. “If this little skinny Ojibwe kid that never knew how to train, never went to hockey school could play in the NHL anyone can do anything.”
Nolan travels all over the country hosting coaching clinics and sharing his story in small communities. The Ted Nolan Foundation has awarded 121 post-secondary scholarships totaling more than $300,000.
He sees lots of potential in the players he meets and with better opportunities thinks there could be more First Nations NHL players.
“We’re missing that connection somewhere down the line,” Nolan said. His son Jordan is one of less than a dozen First Nations players in the league. “As much as I say I worked hard and persevered I also got a lot of help along the way.”
On a personal note, Nolan, who hasn’t coached since 2015, hasn’t ruled out a comeback.
“I have never stopped thinking I wouldn’t go back but getting the other side to make the offer is the hard part, but I’d love to.”