Nolan is a man of his word

JODY VANCE -- 24 Hours Toronto

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

In many ways it would be tough to call Islanders head coach Ted Nolan "lucky," but if you ask him, he will tell you he not only feels lucky but also grateful.

Most sports fans know all about Nolan winning the Jack Adams Trophy for Coach of the Year back in 1995 in his second season with Buffalo. You also know all about the bad times in Buffalo when Nolan found himself unemployed after a soap opera of turmoil.

But what do we know about "the man behind the man" behind the bench?

A very proud member of Ojibwa First Nation, Nolan grew up on the Garden River Reserve outside of Sault Ste. Marie and is never far from there in spirit.

Ask about his values and he gets a wistful look in his eyes as he shares memories of his father.

"I was just 14 when my dad died but I learned so much from in a very short time. My father taught me to always be a man of your word."

A prime example of just how much Ted Nolan took those teachings to heart came in 2005. After almost eight years out of the NHL, Nolan was behind the bench for the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL when the NHL came calling once again.

But -- holding true to his father's advice -- he turned down the job.

Instead he stuck to his word and commitment to see the Wildcats through to the Memorial Cup. They did not win the championship, but Nolan won the hearts and minds of his players by sticking by them.

Now with N.Y., living the dream, Nolan still speaks of life's greater gifts. He tells of how lucky he feels to be able go to the fridge and find food in it.

Ted Nolan has survived the odds, beaten them even, by leading by example as he was taught back near Garden River. Timeless lessons he hopes to share with the next generation of young Aboriginals who don't feel lucky ... yet.

Nolan may be considered lucky these days --perhaps because he's coaching one of the best teams in the NHL and already has a buzz about another Jack Adams Trophy.

Jody Vance is a sportscaster with Leafs TV. Her columns appear Tuesdays and Thursdays in 24 hours. jody.vance@tor.sunpub.com.


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