Nolan anxious to lead Isles into Buffalo

MIKE ZEISBERGER

, Last Updated: 10:45 AM ET

Swarms of New Year's Eve revellers at a downtown Buffalo hotel were too busy preparing for the night's coming festivities to notice Ted Nolan walking through the lobby late yesterday afternoon.

Nolan certainly won't enjoy the same type of anonymity today when he leads his New York Islanders against the host Buffalo Sabres, a game that marks his long-awaited return to the Queen City.

"The excitement and nerves, it's almost like Christmas morning or like playing your first National Hockey League game," Nolan said. "It's exciting.

"This place was a very special place and I really enjoyed my time that I spent here. One thing I remember about Buffalo is the people. They made me feel at home when I first got here, and they certainly helped over the last 10 years with the e-mails here and there. The fans were something special."

Hired as coach of the Sabres back in 1995, Nolan won NHL coach of the year honours in his second season when his Buffalo team, backstopped by Dominik Hasek, unexpectedly won its division.

When the Sabres refused to offer him more than the one-year deal he was seeking, he suddenly found himself out of a job amid reports that he was at loggerheads with then-general manager John Muckler. He did not get another NHL coaching job until the Islanders came calling last summer, leading some to speculate that he had been blackballed by the league because of his alleged reputation for clashing with management.

Nolan was a popular figure with many Sabres fans, who held protests in response to his departure.

"Coaching on Long Island, the first game they look at is the New York Rangers, but on a personal note, just for this one time, I think it is going to be a special game," he said.

Nolan added that he holds no grudge against the Sabres.

--What has happened in the past is gone and it's over, and hopefully the fans will remember the good times," he said.


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