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Surprise recall puts Nolan name back in NHL spotlight

by Curtis Zupke
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Nobody would have blamed Jordan Nolan if it felt like he was both floating on air and weighed down by emotion in his NHL debut.

When he was recalled by the Los Angeles Kings late last week, the press release noted that he was the son of former NHL coach Ted Nolan.

When he took the ice for his first NHL game, it was against the same New York Islanders team his father once coached.


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Never mind that Ted Nolan was in Latvia when his youngest son was recalled last Saturday. It might have only seemed like he was sitting in the stands because of the buzz of a Nolan once again being in the NHL.

That’s the way it’s always been for Jordan Nolan, 22, who is accustomed to questions about his father.

"The issue’s always brought up with my dad," Nolan said. "It was always in my life. But past a certain point you try not to think about it too much. You just focus on kind of creating your own name, creating your own identity. That’s what happens when that part of transition to the pro life with my dad being there.

"He’s more just someone that can just help me out and always (be) there for me, and people don’t (ask me) too much."

While Jordan Nolan hasn’t had quite the difficult route to the NHL his father endured, his call-up was a surprise that neatly put his development into focus.

Nolan, a seventh-round draft pick in 2009, wasn’t really expected to crack the Kings’ lineup this season. He wasn’t listed among L.A.’s top 10 prospects by The Hockey News in its 2011-12 preview issue and the Web site doesn’t rank him among the top 19 prospects within the organization.

Nolan is an enforcer with a nose for the net and the Kings already have someone in that mold in Kyle Clifford.

But L.A. is desperate for scoring and size, and the 6-foot-3, 227-pound Nolan was recalled last Saturday, along with Dwight King, a 6-3, 234-pound power forward.

Nolan was a scorer in midget and the last two seasons of junior, when he was about 6-2, 190 pounds. But after he turned pro, he changed his game at the suggestion of Manchester Monarchs coach Mark Morris.

"Probably halfway through last year, coach took me aside and told me what I had to do if I wanted to make the NHL one day," Nolan said. "I took that to heart and I’ve been trying to fine tune it the past year and a half."

Nolan’s journey reached fulfillment Sunday when he scored his first NHL goal, off a slick feed from Mike Richards.

King also scored his first NHL goal in that game, the first time two Kings scored their first career goals in the same game since Drew Doughty and Oscar Moller in 2008.

Nolan said his father was obviously happy for him and has given him some advice from the family’s home base in Garden River, Ont.
Ted Nolan did not respond to an email request to be interviewed for this story.

"He’s watched a few games," Jordan said. "He’s really just trying to make me feel good about myself, saying work hard out there and just to keep it going … just keep working hard and see how it goes.

"He makes a lot of time to come see me on his off days. He usually comes down for about maybe twice a month, for a weekend or so. But him and my mom make a lot of time for me."

Jordan Nolan of the Los Angeles Kings in action against the New York Islanders on February 11 at Nassau Coliseum. (Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jordan has little recollection of his father’s successful and controversial stint with the Buffalo Sabres.

Ted Nolan took a Sabres team comprised largely of grinders and guided it to a Northeast Division crown in 1996-97, which earned him the Jack Adams Trophy for best coach.

But his relationship with the organization deteriorated. He was fired after two seasons.

Jordan, who was in grade school during that time, has sunnier memories of that time.

"We wore our jerseys every game, me and my brother (Brandon)," Jordan said. "It was good times. We actually lived on the Canadian side, down in Stevensville, Ontario -- just crossed the border before every game.

"(Brandon) traveled with the team and went on the bench a few times. Me, I was just happy to kind of hang around the room and watch the games."

Ted Nolan wasn’t able to land an NHL coaching job again until 2006, when he took the New York Islanders to the postseason.

He was fired by the Islanders after two seasons, again because of philosophical differences with management.

His name still gets attention even though he’s far from the NHL world, presently coaching the Latvian national team.

"Guys just wanted to play hard for him and win for him," said Kings winger Trent Hunter, who played for Nolan on Long Island.

"Some coaches have that characteristic and some don’t … he had good intensity on the bench and in the room which, I think, a lot of times gives guys a little more energy and a little more jump.

Jordan Nolan
Center - LAK
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 1
SOG: 2 | +/-: 1
"I really enjoyed playing for him. It was tough to see him go, but unfortunately it’s a business and things happen."

Jordan said Ted hasn’t coached him outside of summer hockey. He smiled when asked about the possibility of playing for his dad in the NHL.

"That would be pretty cool," Jordan said. "A few years from now. We’ll see how it goes."

Jordan’s current stay with L.A. might not last beyond this weekend.

Coach Darryl Sutter has made it clear that Nolan and King are up here because of injuries and ineffectiveness in regards to Jarret Stoll and Dustin Penner, respectively.

That he’s made it to the NHL is just fine for Jordan, knowing what his father had to do to make it to the League.

"Anytime you work hard for something and spent a lot of time, you’re definitely appreciative of being here," Jordan said. "You work hard, and it’s something you want to do for the rest of your life. It’s not an easy road. This is the first taste of it. I’ll see how it goes from here."

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