He's back. Ted Nolan, once named NHL Coach of the Year, has rejoined the franchise with whom he had the most pro success.
Nolan, an Ojibwe from northern Ontario's Garden River First Nation, was named the interim head coach of the Buffalo Sabres on November 13th.
Nolan coached the Sabres for two seasons in the mid-90s. During his second season, 1996-97, he guided them to a 40-30-12 record and received the Jack Adams Trophy, which is awarded annually to the league's top coach.
Despite that successful season, Nolan was not brought back, reportedly due to a rift with the Sabres former General Manager John Muckler. Nolan had to wait almost a decade before his next offer came to coach in the NHL. He guided the New York Islanders from 2006-08.
The hiring of Nolan was part of a major shakeup by the Sabres last week, who were off to a horrendous start, winning just four of its first 20 games. It was the worst start in franchise history. Nolan replaced Ron Rolston, who was relieved of his coaching duties.
"There aren’t enough words inside me to express how happy I am," Nolan said during a press conference. "It's great to be back."
Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier was also fired last week. Buffalo brought in one of its former star players, Pat LaFontaine, to serve as the club's president of hockey operations.
In a press conference, LaFontaine said Nolan would be the interim head coach until the club hires a new G.M. And that individual will determine whether Nolan will be retained.
With Nolan's hiring, there are now two Natives currently employed as head coaches in the NHL. Craig Berube, who is Cree, is the bench boss of the Philadelphia Flyers.
This is believed to be the first time in NHL history that two Natives have been head coaches at the same time.
Sabres owner Terry Pegula believes Nolan’s presence behind the bench is just what the struggling Sabres require.
"He's a class individual," Pegula said. "And he's going to add a lot of energy to our organization."
The Sabres were successful during Nolan's first game back, downing the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 on Friday. But Buffalo wasn't able get back-to-back victories, losing 4-2 to the Leafs on Saturday.
During Nolan’s eight-season pro career, he suited up for 78 NHL contests, 60 of those with the Detroit Red Wings and the remainder with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Both of Nolan's sons made it to the NHL.
His eldest son, Brandon, spent most of his pro career in the minors, but suited up for a half-dozen contests with the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2007-08 season. Several concussions eventually forced him to retire.
Nolan's youngest son, Jordan, 24, is in his third season with the Los Angeles Kings, and helped them capture the Stanley Cup in 2012.