"Ted is the kind of coach, I think, that can get the most out of young people out of any coach that I've had the pleasure to meet," said last night's master of ceremonies, Bud Wildman, of Ted Nolan.
Nolan, Sault Ste. Marie's Citizen of the Year in 1991, inductee into the Sault Ste. Marie Hockey Hall of Fame, and recipient of the Order of Ontario, was the guest of honour at the United Way fundraising dinner at the Grand Gardens.
The Soo Greyhounds Hockey Club, including head coach Sheldon Keefe, were also in attendance to dine and chat with United Way supporters, and take in the wisdom of the current head coach of Latvia's men's national hockey team.
Explaining his background and describing the experience of growing up without means (his first pair of hockey skates were second-hand and three sizes too big for him), Nolan said: "I really wanted to play [hockey], and I strongly believe, no matter where you're from and no matter what obstacles you have in life, that you really can succeed."
Nolan is living proof of that.
As a young lad without a car, he was unable to travel from Garden River to Sault Ste. Marie to train at a gym, so he developed his own unique conditioning program that utilized his surroundings.
"You have to work with what you have," he told last night's crowd. "I would run along the railroad tracks and hit every tie because hockey players had to have quick feet. I would walk back on the rail because hockey players had to have good balance as well. Then I would grab an axe and run up the hill behind my house because hockey players had to have power. And we also needed to have core strength, so I would chop down a tree."
Because of his perseverance and belief in himself, Nolan went on to play professional hockey with the likes of Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky and Steve Yzerman; was a team member of both the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins; had the opportunity to play in the Montreal Forum, Maple Leaf Gardens, and Madison Square Gardens; went on to coach the Greyhounds to a Memorial Cup championship in 1993; and was head coach for the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Islanders.
"Whatever dreams and aspirations that you have, stick to it. Things can work out."
The United Way of Sault Ste. Marie and District serves a number of local agencies, including Women in Crisis, the John Howard Society, Sault Ste. Marie YMCA, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Sault Ste. Marie, the Canadian Hearing Society, and the Ontario March of Dimes.
The current United Way campaign runs until the end of March 2013.
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