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.
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