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Puck Daddy

Puck Daddy talks with Ted Nolan: ‘Never quit hoping’ for NHL comeback; qualifying Latvia for Sochi Olympics

Sean Leahy
Puck Daddy

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Ted Nolan hasn’t coached in the NHL since 2008, but whenever a spot opens up somewhere, his name always seems to be mentioned. The 1997 Jack Adams Award winner has only coached a total of four seasons in the NHL, but still aims to get back one day.

“I have never quit hoping, for hope is a good thing,” said Nolan via email.

Since leaving the New York Islanders in 2008, Nolan spent two years as Vice President of Hockey Operations with the AHL’s Rochester Americans and, since 2011, has been head coach of the Latvian men's national team, who qualified for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia last month.

When he was hired for the Latvia job -- becoming the first North American coach to take the gig in 72 years -- Nolan wasn't the only former NHL bench boss up for the job. Mike Keenan was also in the running.

“We were looking for a neutral, authoritative coach with lots of experience and good hockey knowledge,” said Latvian Hockey Federation President Kirovs Lipmans at the time. “This is exactly what we found with Ted Nolan.”

That experience and knowledge helped Nolan lead Latvia to their fourth straight Olympics, beating out Kazakhstan, France and Great Britain in final qualification.

Despite the new face in a new land, Nolan didn’t face any difficulties trying to get through to his new charges.

“The players and fans were very welcoming and very open,” said Nolan. “I couldn't have been more proud. For the size of the country, the talent level was very impressive.”

“Our biggest challenge in qualifying was unifying a group of individuals into a team."

For Sochi, the Latvians are grouped with the Czech Republic, Sweden and Switzerland.

Last spring, Latvia finished 10th at the World Championships in Helsinki and Stockholm, earning Nolan a one-year contract extension, with the clause that if Latvia qualified for the Olympics, it would be extended through May 2014.

A few weeks after the Worlds, Nolan was the ultimate hockey dad, following his son Jordan as the Los Angeles Kings won their first Stanley Cup. They spoke daily, but Nolan served only fatherly advice and left the coaching part up to Darryl Sutter.

For Nolan, trying to qualify Latvia in a short, three-game-in-four-day tournament was much easier than playing hockey dad.

“I felt it was more nerve wracking watching my son."

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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