SUN Hockey Pool

Nolan folds race card

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

MONCTON -- For once and for all, Ted Nolan would like to make something clear: He does not think racism has kept him from getting another job in the National Hockey League.

"I never once said it was racism," Nolan, the coach of the Memorial Cup host Moncton Wildcats, said yesterday morning.

"Sometimes people are misunderstood. The simple fact that when people who have a different race or background come into a new surrounding, it is always tough to get in. It happens in schoolyards, it happens in corporate Canada, it happens in the sports field. It is tough for any person of a different background to fit in.

"If people want to assume it is racism, that is their assumption."

If it is racism that has kept Nolan, the 1996-97 coach of the year with the Buffalo Sabres, out of the NHL since he turned down a one-year extension from the Sabres in 1997, it's hard to explain how he was able to get a job in the league in the first place.

Nolan, an Ojibwa, is not bothered by those who believe he would be better off keeping his mouth shut.

"People are free to speak their mind," Nolan said. "That is what makes this country what it is."

What matters for Nolan is that he has put himself back on the hockey map this season with the Wildcats. His contract was just for one year, and where he winds up for 2006-07 does not matter much to him. But the talk among some NHL people in Moncton for the past week or so has been that Nolan has done enough to ensure that he should get consideration for NHL coaching vacancies.

Nolan went eight years between coaching jobs. It's a certainty that will not happen again.

Some rumours have Nolan returning closer to his St. Catharines home, possibly to coach the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League. The owner of the Wildcats, Robert Irving, said yesterday he "definitely" wants Nolan back.

"He has my full support and respect as a hockey coach and as a person," Irving said. "I would prefer him to stay here. Whether it be the business world or the hockey world, there are lots of things that go on behind closed doors and I am not sure why Teddy has not earned his way back (to the NHL). All I know is my experience with him has been a very positive one."

Nolan and Irving will sit down in the next week to discuss Nolan's future. It is worth noting that Nolan's right-hand man, associate coach Danny Flynn, is scheduled to return to his job as director of hockey operations at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., after a one-year leave of absence. Flynn was behind the bench with Nolan when their Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds won the Memorial Cup back in 1993.

"There is an Ojibwa word, nongwa, which means right now," Nolan, 47, said. "What I am doing is enjoying a whole bunch of right-nows."


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