THN archives: Nolan-Hasek butt heads, Regier takes over

Dominik Hasek and Ted Nolan didn’t see eye-to-eye during Ted Nolan’s coach-of-the-year season and made it clear he’d prefer it if the bench boss didn’t return.

The last time Ted Nolan and Darcy Regier crossed paths in Buffalo, they were on opposite sides of the road. Regier was the incoming GM on June 11, 1997, replacing the fired John Muckler, while Nolan was ostensibly on his way out of town after rejecting a curious one-year contract extension on the heels of his Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.

Here’s what the late Jim Kelley, our Sabres correspondent at the time, wrote for The Hockey News in July, 1997.

The Buffalo Sabres have their new GM in place, but he inherited all the problems of the old one. And then some.

The latest twists in the Sabre soap opera centered around new GM Darcy Regier, his in-limbo coach Ted Nolan and goalie Dominik Hasek.

Days after Hasek said he anticipated doing good things in Buffalo with Nolan next season, the star goalie told a local radio station he didn’t respect his coach and that it would be better if Nolan didn’t return next season. He did say if Nolan returned he would play for him, but made it clear it wouldn’t be a good situation.

Three days later, the Sabres held a news conference to announce they would offer the reigning coach of the year a one-year contract. They scheduled the conference before they made Nolan the offer, then called him in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and told him of the deal while the media assembled.

Predictably, Nolan, whose contract expired June 30, rejected the offer. He said he would actively look for work elsewhere, but Regier, hired as GM June 11, said there was still room for negotiation.

Before the apparent parting of the ways, the Buffalo News reported Sabres ownership was split on the Nolan issue with some members backing the stance taken by Regier and team president Larry Quinn while one, John Rigas, openly supported Nolan.

Jean Knox, another minority shareholder, also backed Nolan. The widow of former owner Seymour Knox, Jean attended a rally for Nolan June 27, the day after the offer was made.
“This never would have happened if Seymour were alive today,” Knox told about 400 people who gathered in front of Marine Midland Arena to show support of Nolan. “Ted Nolan would have a long-term contract.”

All this came days after the June 19 NHL awards ceremony where Nolan was named coach of the year. Hasek won the Hart and Vezina Trophies (and earlier the Lester B. Pearson Award) and Michael Peca won the Selke. It was the greatest haul of hardware in the history of the franchise.