WARSAW – The Polish Ice Hockey Federation hired Ted Nolan as new head coach of the men’s national team. He arrived in Warsaw yesterday and signed a two-year contract. The 59-year-old replaces Jacek Plachta whose contract was not renewed after three years.
“We count on the Canadian hockey school. This country has been the best in the world in recent years and I’m glad we have been able to find an agreement with such a great coach,” the federation’s president Dawid Chwalka said. “Ten Nolan has worked not long ago in Latvia and knows European hockey. We expect that with this staff we will reach improved results.”
After promotion to the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A, Poland quickly established itself in the second tier with two third-place finishes on home ice in Krakow 2015 and Katowice 2016, tightly missing a return to the top division for the first time since 2002. Last spring in Kyiv, Ukraine, Poland ended up in fourth place.
Nolan, a First Nation Canadian who grew up in the Garden River reserve near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, was coaching the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Islanders in the National Hockey League. He won the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year in 1997. Between 2011 and 2014 he was coaching the Latvian national team at several occasions including the 2014 Olympic Winter Games and the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships in 2012, 2013 and 2014 before focusing on his coaching duties with the Buffalo Sabres where he was released in 2015 despite two more years under contract.
Under Nolan the Latvian national team had its biggest success in recent years during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The Latvians edged Switzerland 3-1 in a knockout game to make the quarter-finals in Sochi where they gave eventual champion Canada a hard time but eventually lost 2-1 on a late power-play goal from Shea Weber.
As a player Nolan appeared in 78 NHL games for Detroit and Pittsburgh in the ‘80s. His son Jordan has played for the Los Angeles Kings for six seasons winning the Stanley Cup twice and his other son Brandon shortly played in the NHL as well, for the Carolina Hurricanes.
“I love challenges. I’ve always been an underdog my whole life. When this opportunity came and seeing where Polish hockey has been for a while, hopefully I can make a difference and rise up to a higher level. I’m really looking forward. It’s probably my biggest challenge to date and my biggest excitement to date,” Nolan said after landing in Warsaw.
“I looked at when they’ve been in the top division competing against the bigger nations and they haven’t been for a while so I’m really looking forward to getting to that level. You have to be very tactical. You have to know what you’re doing, you need to be aggressive, hard-nosed, hard-working. If you compete hard, work hard and play smart, great things can happen.”
Nolan will include his former assistant Tom Coolen in his coaching staff, who recently joined club team GKS Katowice as head coach. The first time the duo will meet the team will be at the end of August. An exhibition game is planned on 30 August in Budapest against Hungary.
Poland will battle for promotion to the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship next spring. At the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Budapest from 22-28 April 2018 the opponents will be Slovenia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Hungary and Great Britain. The top-two teams will qualify for the 2019 Worlds in Slovakia.