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Former Flames coach Hartley to take over behind Latvian bench

It’s not an NHL job, but Bob Hartley is about to see action up close and personal at the World Championship for the first time in his career. It won’t be with Team Canadian, though, as the Ontario native has been hired to coach Latvia.

Bob Hartley has found himself his next gig, and it could see him coach on the biggest international stage of his career. Call it the Ted Nolan coaching path.

With no job in the NHL since being let go by the Calgary Flames following the 2015-16 campaign, the Latvian Hockey Federation announced Tuesday that Hartley, 56, will be taking over behind the bench for their men’s team for at least the next year. The contract does, however, include the option to remain with the Latvian team through to 2018.

"I am excited about the latest challenge in my career coach,” Hartley said, per the LHF. “This will be my first experience working with the world's elite national team, and I am grateful to the Latvian Hockey Federation for giving me the opportunity and confidence. I look forward to the moment when the Latvian national team will start a preparatory phase, which will be foundation for a successful start in the world championship in Germany.”

Hartley, an Ontario native, has a Stanley Cup, Calder Cup, Swiss NLA championship and QMJHL title to his name, and his most recent accolade was the Jack Adams Award for coaching a Flames team that most saw as a lottery contender to a playoff berth — and second-round appearance — in the 2014-15 post-season. The Flames crashed back down to earth this past season, however, which would eventually cost Hartley his job.

Before landing in Calgary, Hartley also ran major league benches with the Atlanta Thrashers, Colorado Avalanche, Hershey Bears and Cornwall Aces, with a single season in Zurich of the Swiss league between his two most recent NHL stops in Calgary and Atlanta.

It’s not an unfamiliar route for former NHL coaches to find themselves on the world stage once exiting the NHL. Most recently, former Edmonton Oilers coach Ralph Krueger, currently serving as the chairman of English Premier League’s Southampton, came out back to coaching after an absence of a few seasons to coach Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey, but the most notable modern example might be the aforementioned Nolan.

From 2011-12 to 2013-14, Nolan was at the helm of the Latvian team. He consulted with the team’s U20 entry at the World Junior Championship in 2011-12 and 2012-13, coached the team at World Championships in all three seasons and was at the helm when the Latvian team qualified for the 2014 Olympics in Vancouver. The Latvian team dropped all three of its games with a final goal differential of minus-five, but Nolan’s squad put a scare into the Canadian team in the quarterfinal thanks to an outstanding performance from netminder Kristers Gudlevskis.

Hartley’s team won’t be eligible to appear at the 2018 Olympics as the Latvians failed to qualify, but he will still coach the team at the upcoming World Championship, which will make for his largest international coaching test ever.

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