RIGA – The Latvian Hockey Federation announced on Wednesday following an extra-ordinary board meeting that Ted Nolan will be hired as national team coach for the upcoming season.
The 53-year-old will succeed Olegs Znaroks, whose contract was not renewed after five years following the 13th-place finish at the 2011 IIHF World Championship.
The Latvians had two Canadians on the shortlist, the other being Mike Keenan, but today the board approved the hiring of Nolan. A contract will be signed in the upcoming days and the new coach is expected to arrive in Riga at the end of the month.
With the hiring of Nolan the Latvian Hockey Federation also announced that it will work more closely together with Dinamo Riga to achieve excellent results for Latvian ice hockey with the national team.
Nolan, a First Nation Canadian who grew up in a 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. In the last two years he has been working for the AHL’s Rochester Americans as Vice-President of Hockey Operations.
“We were looking for a neutral, authoritative coach with lots of experience and good hockey knowledge,” LHF President Kirovs Lipmans said. “This is exactly what we found with Ted Nolan.”
Nolan is also expected to help the U20 national team, which was promoted to the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship in Calgary and Edmonton, Canada, as a consultant.
The assistant coaches are yet to be named, but it was earlier announced that the new head coach will be supported by Latvian experts.
Nolan will be the first North American coach of the Latvian national team since fellow Canadian Larry Marsh in 1939. Since restoring independence in 1991, the Latvian national teams have been coached either by Latvians or Russians with the exception of Swede Curt Lidström (2002-2004), and Russian has been the main language in coaching for the past seven years.
After barely avoiding relegation this year in Bratislava, Latvia will play against Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, Denmark and Italy in its preliminary-round group at the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, and thousands of Latvian fans are expected to follow the team accross the Baltic Sea to Stockholm.
The Swedish capital will be co-host of the event together with Helsinki, Finland, which will serve as the main venue in 2012. The cities will swap their roles one year later to host the 2013 Worlds in Sweden and Finland.