Nod to Nolan

Heaven forbid that I would ever encourage the Calgary Flames to do something intelligent.
Being the Edmonton-area product and rabid Oilers fan that I am, my usual perspective of the Cowtown puck crew is that the more times they shoot themselves in the foot, the better life becomes.
But for today (and most likely only today), I will confess to hoping the southern Alberta club makes the smart decision when it comes to filling its vacant head coaching position (not that I’m calling interim coach Al MacNeil vacant—he seems pretty intelligent, even for a Flames’ coach.)
It was reported over the weekend that the club had given an extensive interview to former NHL Coach of the Year Ted Nolan, who won the award after the 1996-97 season and then was shockingly let go by the Buffalo Sabres a month later.
While there are other viable candidates, including International Falls native Kevin Constantine, a former head coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks, the hiring of Nolan by the Flames would serve several good purposes.
It would give the organization some much-needed stability by placing a credible presence behind the bench.
And it would end the inexplicable six-year absence from the NHL scene by Nolan, who must have wondered what felony he committed to continually be shoved aside while dozens of head coaching positions were filled since his dismissal from Buffalo.
Most importantly, though, it would re-establish the concept of just how far aboriginal Canadians can go through hard work and determination—something that a culture often unfairly stereotyped can build upon.
Hailing from the Garden River First Nation just outside of Sault Ste. Marie, Nolan’s hockey accomplishments are just the tip of the iceberg of the kind of positive influence he’s been in this country.
He started an annual golf tournament to raise money for education for native women in honour of his mother, Rose, after she was killed by a drunk driver.
He organized hockey schools that taught young players not only on-ice skills, but how to deal with issues like peer pressure and self-esteem. He was the first recipient of Canada’s Aboriginal Achievement Award, and presented with the Order of Ontario.
He travels across the country these days (including a couple of visits here), speaking to indigenous youth about the importance of education and the dangers of substance abuse.
In short, Nolan has been a role model for all young Canadians—aboriginal or otherwise—to hold up as a symbol of what they may accomplish in life.
Let’s hope the Flames give him his shot to get back to the big league. If a fellow like that ends up leading Calgary to victory over my Oilers, at least I’ll take my lumps with a bit of a smile.
• • •
The Fort Frances Gymnastics Academy is set to hold registrations for its second semester Monday, Jan. 6 from 4-8 p.m. at the academy, which is located at 835 McKenzie Ave. N. (next to the Beer Store).
I used to be pretty good on the rings, and still am today—except now it’s onion rings that are my specialty.
• • •
Attention anglers: the official video of this year’s Emo Walleye Tournament is now available for purchase. The highlights package can be picked up for $12 at The Corner Closet in Emo, with proceeds going towards the 2003 edition.
Trust me, this is no fish story. If you love throwing out your line, don’t let this big one get away.
If you are planning any sporting events, or have some sports-related information or scores, feel free to call me at 274-5373 ext. 237 or by e-mail at jpayeur@fortfrances.com

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