Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Was/Is Ted Nolan Being Blackballed?

1) This is a question that many were asking BEFORE Ted was finally re-admitted back into the NHL after an amazing decade hiatus. After last years clear snub by the NHL in its Adams(Coach of the year) voting, and this year's ignoring by the league of the job he seems to be doing thus far (with a team that no one regarded as anything more than cellar-dweller material); we are now convinced that Ted not only was blackballed by a consensus of the NHL owners and league high officials, but that situation has not changed despite his resurrection by the Isles last year.

2) To review for those who may either be new to the NHL, or not recall the soap opera that surrounded Ted:

  • Nolan took a team in decline and (admittedly with the help of Superstar goalie Dominick Hasek) turned the team around. Winning 'Coach of the Year' in 1997

  • No one knows the true story, but Nolan and his GM John Muckler never got along. There were rumors that Nolan went to the owners and Muckler was fired because of this. Many point to that as the reason Nolan was shunned afterwards " GM killer" was the oft used phrase. He has strenuously has always denied this. No one has yet to come forward who would confirm the story either. What is certain John Muckler had/has been around the NHL for a long time and has many friends, so even the hint of that hurt Nolan's chances of finding work after Buffalo

  • Then there were the other whispered, racist inspired innuendos-? of 'coming to practice drunk, and chasing/sleeping with players' wives. None of which could be confirmed or even corroborated with any source that even we at FAUXRUMORS could find! (We tried to find some!) The team didn't out right fire him, but even after winning the Adams award, they made Nolan a one year contract offer which was blatantly disrespectful for the job he had just performed. Instead of quickly latching on with another team when an opening occurred Ted found himself without so much as a job offer for several seasons.

  • Spurred from the NHL Ted stopped looking for work with in the league opting instead to return to his roots to help native children, through work with the Assembly of First Nations and through hockey. He set up an Indigenous hockey program and took his players to an international tournament. He also started the Ted Nolan Foundation to help raise money for native youth and native women.

  • It wasn't until 5 years had passed did the NY Islanders offer Ted an asst coaches offer which Ted declined, to concentrate on aforementioned native projects. However, Nolan still had hockey in his blood so when he was offered an opportunity to coach in the QMJHL with the Moncton Wildcats Ted took the job, and excelled just like he seems to always do. Taking his team to the finals.

  • In the spring of 2006 Ted got a call from Isle's maverick owner Charles Wang. Wang had shown in the past with his 10, 15 year contracts and other 'unique' moves that he didn't go along with the usual NHL flow, and apparently Ted had been on Wang's radar for quite awhile, but now the time seemed right for the two to agree on a head coaching comeback.

3) The Isles team he inherited was hardly Cup material. Certainly NOT on paper. Still with the team was 'salary cap albatross', and apparent locker room cancer, Alexei Yashin. Hardly a 'Nolan type' player, but for some reason he was still team captain. The team had just fired its new GM Neil Smith after 30 days, in a bizazzaro-world series of summer time moves that culminated with an unheard of 15 year contract for goalie Rick Dipetro. Almost all prognosticators (admittedly even us at FAUXRUMORS) figured the Isles would finish at or near the bottom, fighting with Washington for 15th

4) So what happened? Ted took what he had and shaped that team into his own. Getting the very most out of every player, and having the Isles seemingly way overachieve toward an unexpected playoff berth garnering a very respectable 92 points, good for the 8th slot. Though they bowed out in the first round, it wasn't an easy 5 game series win for the Sabres.

5) What followed is what makes us believe there are STILL hard feelings/elements that are blackballing Nolan even after a decade.

  • Nolan would seem to be a shoe-in to be the winner if not at least to be among the 3 finalist for the award he won in his last NHL season, the Jack Adams award as 'Coach of the Year'. Yet amazingly he was omitted. While it could be argued that either Therrien or Alain Vigneault were there by virtue of their superstar players (Luongo and Crosby), and Lindy Ruff had a star packed club, Nolan had no such list of players.

  • In fact we were floored that Lindy Ruff (coincidentally Nolan's successor in Buffalo) was even included. After all he had a returning team that was considered one of the best. They didn't over achieve or vastly improve their point totals. His inclusion, in our opinion, was a clear anti-Nolan statement.

  • This season Nolan takes an apparently even more undermanned Islander team into action. Having lost scoring from Jason Blake, Ryan Smyth, Yashin(though that loss is a likely gain!) Victor Kozlov, etc. With early snubs this summer from many of the UFA's it looked like no one wanted to go to the Isles. The ones who did come seemed to be mercenaries; there for the pay cheque/no one else wanted them. Hardly a team to build around/compete for a playoff spot. Will Nolan and the Isles succeed again? Well its way too early, but thus far the Isles are right in the mix.

  • Add to all this that the classy manner in which Ted Nolan himself urged and arranged to have one of his idols, Al Arbour return behind the bench last week. Usually Arbour has shunned public attention since his retirement nearly 12 years ago. However, at Nolan's urging he returned for one additional game to get to a milestone 1500 games coached. What sounded like a gimmick to even some hard core Isle's fans turned into one of the more classier done tributes to the Hall of fame coach. While he was instrumental in getting this to fruition, Nolan stayed in the background as much as possible and allowed Arbour to
  • enjoy the fitting lauds he received.

  • After all this, with an apparent, easy to write/cash in on feel good story(s) you'd think the NHL would be quick to try to use/promote what Nolan has done/embodies? What we have heard thus far from the league? Virtual silence. Not blackballed, huh? Yeah right!

6) The only questions that remain are the reasons. Are they buried in racism? After all, though there have been quite a few Native American(First Nation) players in the NHL, Nolan was the first(and only) one to become a head coach. Was it the manner in which John Muckler was fired and the possible influence Nolan had on this? To this day is still a very touchy subject, no one is talking. As many sources as we have, we at FAUXRUMORS can not get into any one's head/heart to find out. However, regardless of the reason(s) there is little doubt that Nolan was singled out and it appears continues to be by the league. Though we at FAUXRUMORS are NOT Islander fans, because of what he has endured and the manner in which he has carried himself, we ARE Nolan fans and wish him the best/success!


The Dark Ranger said...

Well schucks, now I have to have respect for the guy. Someone like Charles Wang allowed the outsider Nolen back into the club. Ted Nolen on the flip side, exposed to criticism, protects his own -- Chris Simon -- which can potentially have a negative perception with NHL peers. Many that dislike Nolen are only looking in from the outside....and judging him. I wouldn't go as far as you, Faux, suggesting racism, but he is a non-communicative figure who is an easy target.

Still very much loathe the Islanders, but thanks for reminding us that coaches are people too. (Baby violin playing)



1) Dark: We didn't say that racism was/is the cause of the blackballing. Certainly we are not the first to mention this possibility though
2) The Simon situation even annoys some islander fans we've talked to. Not all were happy he was brought on board/retained this season. It does show Nolan doesn't abandon his friends. The 'perception' you mention that this could give some folks is an interesting take.

Trotz19 said...

Like anyone, me included, Teddy is not perfect, but there is no doubt he got a raw deal from Buffalo. Not totally sure he's still being intentially overlooked by the league now. I agree that he deserved consideration for coach of the year last year.

Stacy Schnall said...

Nolan got screwed big time. He autta been the coach of the year last year. who won it anyways? They dont like him cuz hes an indian. who cares whut he is. hes gonna win so hell wit em

Andy Facini said...

Wow, guys. That was really something. On the Island, we've all been feeling this kind of ignore/snub attitude for a long, long time now, and Nolan (being here) is no exception.
It really is about time people start re-thinking the "other" NY team.
Thank you for the support.

7th Woman said...

Ted Nolan is one of a kind. He deserves respect for everything he does on and off the ice. I'm glad he's finally getting some recognition, but we're happy as can be that he's on the Island.

Sauce said...

I honestly don't feel Nolan is currently being 'blackballed' by the league hierarchy. Perhaps he is, but I don't see any current evidence of it. Last year's Adams snub was unfortunate, but his exclusion had some, albeit weak, justification.

But let's not fool ourselves here. Racism played a role in Nolan's 10 year absence from the league, and there's no reason to believe that racism is not playing at least some role in the treatment of Nolan and his team today. Racism is no longer out in the open. It's no longer 'acceptable' to be a biggot. But that doen't mean it's dissappeared. We're only a few short generations from white-only drinking fountains in the US. Canada is politically more progressive than the US, but in many respects it exibits an 'old boy' character that even today continues to manifest itself openly in the upper offices of the NHL. First-nationers are among the bottom wrung of the Canadian social pecking order. Don't think for a minute that Nolan's heritage doesn't get under the 'skin' of some who have influence in the league (both off and on the ice).

As for the comments of 'TDR' with respect to the Simon/Hollweg incident and his perception of Nolan's possibly misplaced loyalties... He mentioned the possibility of such an ignorant perception because he himself obviously buys into its premise. That Nolan somehow is willing to ignore Simon's misdeeds simply because they share the same skin color. Considering the mitigating circumstances precipitating the stick "swing" (a hit from behind resulting in a concussion, Hollweg's reputation for similar hits) and Simon's reputation around the league as a well-liked and respected player and teammate, to characterize Nolan's decision to include Simon on this year's team as 'loyalty only to one's own' reflects nothing more than the ignorant and pathetic racism that still lies just under the surface of society in general.

And believe me TDR... no 'baby violins' are playing as I write this. Pretty pathetic.


1) Sauce: As always you provide us with some intelligent/thought out responses/view points. Just one question though. You have us a bit confused on one aspect. On the one hand you're doubtful Nolan is currently being blackballed, BUT you feel there is evidence that racism is playing at least some role in the treatment of Nolan today. Explain, because it sounds like a bit of a contradiction?
2) Are you simply delineating between the terms 'blackball' and racism? As we write in the piece, we feel there ARE sure signs of blackballing. The causes of this though are only speculation, as we can't get into others' heads/hearts. We allude to 2 possible explanations for Nolan's treatment. We'll let others/our readers draw their own conclusions.

Sauce said...

Blackballing implies a deliberate and conspiratorial attempt to keep Nolan either out of the league or to keep him from winning aa particular award (Adams, Stanley Cup). As I said, I see no concrete evidence to conclude this type of plan is underway. The Adams snub can be 'explained away' by citing other worthy candidates or some mis-steps Nolan made during the tail end of last year (delaying the benching of Dunham).

The existence of racism, however, can be more subtle and insidious. Perhaps the skewing of on-ice officiating, or inconsistant application of reply reviews. One can note during Nolan's tenure the Islanders are consistantly among the bottom of the league in PP opportunities versus penalties against. While I take issue with your description of Nolan's lineup as "rag-tag", it's obvious to most that their team speed and defensive lineup is above-average at least. And one can only wonder what kind of fines would've been handed out if it was Brodeur, Luongo, Hasek or even Lundqvist who had been on the receiving end of Avery's elbow just hours after returning from a 1st concussion.

Islander505 said...

Is Ted Nolan Being Blackballed?

Currently on, Dan Rosen posts his Top 5 Coaches in line for the Adams Trophy at this point in the season.
No Ted Nolan to be found.

Never mind that at this point in the season, there are ONLY TWO TEAMS with fewer losses than the Islanders...Ottawa and Detroit.

Draw your own conclusions.

Sauce said...

505 - Thanks for the find. It's only one person's opinion, but since it's on the official NHL web site it certainly presents itself as evidence of a coordinated effort against Nolan. Interesting.


1) Thanks for the heads up 505. We'll review that article and possibly update that Nolan post to reflect this possible latest snub/evidence of continuing blackballing

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