Monday, July 14, 2008

Nolan once again out of a job

Sorry about the hockey post in July, but news that Ted Nolan is once again unemployed is interesting on many levels.

The Nolan story, of course, has never been particularly clear. He's a coach that generally succeeds wherever he goes, but one that can't stay employed. The rumours in Buffalo were that he was a little too close to the players and too contrary to management (although we may never really know what happened there). Certainly, the M.O. on Long Island seems the same--"philosophical differences" were cited.

Having worked on a reserve for some time I can safely assume that another, unspoken, reason will be suggested by aboriginals--racism.

There is a feeling that Nolan doesn't get the same amount of leeway that non-native coaches get. If he's a players coach, he may lack discipline and be a bad influence. If he suggests that management needs to do a better job, he is unreasonable. The suggestion is that hockey culture is more likely to give Mike Keenan 10 chances than Ted Nolan two (and it did take a decade for Nolan to get that second chance).

Hockey is a deeply conservative world. Few people that rock the boat are accepted into its inner circle. In writing a piece last year about racism directed towards natives I found it difficult to get those that have achieved success in the game to talk about their experiences.

Former Boston Bruin Stan Jonathan summed up most of the opinion that was offered to me.

"It's a white man's game," he said last summer. "They would call me a wahoo and a wagon burner and all sorts of things. You just have to learn to take care of yourself if you want to be successful."

On the ice a native player could gain acceptance by abiding by the code. That code says that you shut your mouth and make your point with you fists. Once you've done that enough, you become one of the boys. It isn't clear that a similar code exists for coaches trying to become accepted on the management side of the game.

You aren't likely to hear this opinion expressed too many places today. Instead you will get the usual platitudes. But, ignoring the possibility that a double standard is taking place does the game a disservice.

Related: Because the possibility of racism in sport is an important issue, I'm going to include the entire article I wrote last year. It will be completely below the jump in the post immediately above this.


Big V said...

As soon as I saw he had been fired from the iles, I thought for a second maybe the sens should pick him up...
But I forgot that hartsburg was the coach.

Its mind boggling that someone with a track record like his doesn't get more oportunities... Maybe if he had a losing record then they might be

Maybe a certain team east of Bellville, west of Ottawa and rimes with Pingston can consider giving him employment.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Duane. Nolan's gotten a raw deal by the NHL powers-that-be once too often. You're right - the reasons have always been mysterious and vague.

If I were Nolan I'd be contacting a lawyer.

sager said...

Let's see... Mike Keenan gets chance after chance even the last flare in his Roman candle burned out around 1996.

Nolan performed miracles to get the Isles to the playoffs in '07. A year later, he's gone.

Ray Emery gets 3 piddly NHL offers and ends up going to Russia. But Andrew Raycroft, who more or less hasn't stolen one game for his teams in 3 years, gets a deal from the Avalanche.

Meantime, one team after another is willing to take on Todd Bertuzzi, even though he's a nothing but a facade.

It's very curious who gets the benefit of the doubt in this sport.

(Pingston? But the Kingston Voyageurs already have a coach? Does Kingston Collegiate need someone to coach their team? There's no other Kingston hockey team looking for a coach that we know of.)

Dennis Prouse said...

Who fires their coach in mid July, after the draft and the first two weeks of free agency? What a mess the Islanders are.

I like Nolan, and would have preferred him over Hartsburg, but no way Murray ever hires Nolan. Murray wants an obedient coach who is just happy to be there. Nolan now has a reputation, deserved or not, of being a guy who can't get along with his GM. No one has ever said Nolan can't coach, but a big part of being successful in any job is the ability to get along with others, and to accept the fact that the boss is the boss.

Nolan needs to be somewhere with an older, established GM who has no immediate job security issues of his own. That excludes Snow, who could get shown the door by crazy Charles Wang any moment. For as much as I don't like his act sometimes, Brian Burke would be very effective at telling a whining, meddling coach to zip it and just go coach the team he has.

Duane Rollins said...

I suspect Nolan will end up back in junior. Maybe as a coach/GM.