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In the fall of 2000, the fifth estate tried to unravel the mystery of what happened to Ted Nolan. Our original story was called What's the Score.
Ted Nolan was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario in 1958. He grew up dirt poor on a native reserve, one of 12 children. He played hockey on remote ponds with his brothers, sharing the one set of equipment the family owned. It was hard, but he fell in love with hockey. He went on to play in the NHL and with various farm teams in the early 1980s and eventually played with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1985 until a back injury ended his career.
That's when he discovered he had a knack for coaching. He began coaching his old junior team, the lacklustre Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and led them to the junior national championships, the Memorial Cup, three times. The team would win the coveted cup in 1993. His coaching skills were noticed finally by the NHL and he was signed by the Buffalo Sabres and made the team division leaders. What should have been the launching pad for an NHL coaching career ended after two spectacular years.
What happened to end his career as an NHL coach was a combination of real personality conflicts and rumours of racism. From the beginning, Nolan clashed with his general manager, John Muckler, who was fired just before Ted Nolan won the Jack Adams trophy. Then, the Buffalo Sabres star goalie, Dominik Hasek, a supporter of Muckler, told a local radio show he did not respect his coach. The Sabres organization made Nolan an offer, a one-year contract renewal, that he felt he couldn't accept.
Rumours surfaced that Nolan was drunk at practices and that he was having affairs with players' wives. Nolan denied all of this and dismissed it as racist taunts. When Linden McIntyre first spoke to Ted Nolan in the fall of 2000, he was jobless, bitter and confused. And worse, he was losing his love for hockey.
But, Nolan didn't sit around waiting for the phone to ring for long. He has spent most of the eight years since he left the Sabres trying 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.
This year, the fifth estate caught up with Ted Nolan to find out what happened to him. This time, Linden MacIntyre found a man who was in love again...with hockey. The bitterness and the confusion was gone, replaced once again by passion and drive.
It all began in 2005 when businessman Robert Irving, the owner of the Moncton Wildcats, a team in the Quebec junior hockey league, called Ted Nolan. Irving wanted someone to lead the Wildcats to the national championships, the Memorial Cup, which in 2006 is taking place in Moncton. Irving knew of Nolan's past and his coaching abilities and he wanted Nolan badly.
So, Ted Nolan is on his way, possibly, to repeating history. He re-built the Moncton Wildcats and he's led his team to number one in the standings, placing them first in their division.
The road to the Memorial Cup is long and hard, but Nolan says he's ready and, more importantly, he is doing what he loves. "I definitely got the fire back," he told Linden MacIntyre. "I think the first hour on the job I knew it was something that I missed and it's good to be back."