A FAMILY REUNION
By Jason Lockhart
Ted Nolan earned his first win at the Nassau Coliseum as head coach of the Islanders on Saturday, but it was a little more special than most other wins.
A group of over 100 of Nolan's friends and family drove down this weekend to watch him coach. They traveled from Nolan's hometown of Garden River, which is a First Nation Reserve just outside Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The group traveled for over 20 hours straight on a bus to watch this weekend's game against Boston, but it's something that is the norm for Nolan's family.
"My family is very supportive of me," said Nolan. "Family has always been important to me. I come from a large family: six brothers and five sisters. The first time I played junior hockey they always came to watch, during pro hockey they came to watch and they've continued that support now."
One of the organizers of the trip was his nephew, Steve Nolan.
"It was a long bus ride, but everyone is excited to be here," said Steve. "For some, it's their first time being in the city. Garden River is just ten by ten square miles. Everyone is excited to see Ted back in the NHL. We're all here to support him and cheer him on."
Garden River is small: a population of just over 2,100 of which only 1,000 still live on the reserve. The small population has led to a very tight-knit group of people.
"I grew up in a very small community back home," said Ted. "If we needed to go to hockey practice and no one in the family had a car, someone in the community would drive us or we'd borrow a car."
Those trips to practice paid off as Ted made it to the NHL playing in 18 games with the Red Wings and Penguins. Even though Ted has played in the NHL and coached in the NHL as far back as 1994, it still amazes his family how much success he has had.
"We're all so proud of him," said sister-in law Marie. "When we pulled in today, we thought, "Can you believe a little kid from a reserve being here?"
Believe it or not, Ted has made his mark in the NHL and he hopes to continue his success this year with not only the support of Islanders fans, but his family in Garden River as well.