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3Nolans giving back through sport

The 3Nolans program has geared itself to bringing hockey to Indigenous youths that haven't always had access to hockey camps before
Ted Nolan (left), Jordan Nolan (centre), and Brandon Nolan (right).

“It’s just about giving an amazing experience to these kids for the couple of days that we’re with them.”

That’s among the primary goals for Brandon Nolan, brother Jordan, and father Ted as the trio travels across the country running hockey schools geared toward First Nation youths.

The 3Nolans program started in 2013 and was small early on, running two or three hockey schools each summer.

Flash forward to 2022 and the 3Nolans program is holding four hockey schools just in the month of August, including one this weekend at the John Rhodes Community Centre locally.

In speaking about the program, Brandon Nolan’s passion comes through instantly and it’s clear that it’s truly all about the kids.

“We’re trying to get to as many locations as we can,” Nolan said in a recent interview with SooToday.

Among those locations are ones that haven’t had the access to similar programs before.

“Some of these locations don’t have access to hockey schools or access to people coming in to see them or develop a program for them,” Nolan said. “We’re lucky to travel to the places we go to.”

“Some of the places are pretty hard to get to,” Nolan added. “Starting a school on a Friday night, we have to leave on a Thursday afternoon to get there. Sometimes we’re flying to a major city, then taking puddle-jumper airplanes to our final destination.”

Nolan added that “the travel is quite hard, but it just makes the final destination feel so much better when you get there.”

“All of these communities, the kids are amazing, and the communities are amazing,” Nolan said. “We’re pretty lucky to go to some of the locations that we do. Yes, they’re hard to get to, but once you get there, it just makes that journey so much better.”

The 3Nolans program has also made the effort over the years to return to those communities for hockey schools as opposed to it being a one-and-done scenario.

It was the regularity of requests to help out at other hockey schools that prompted the idea for 3Nolans.

“We were helping out with a lot of other hockey schools, native and non-native hockey schools, all across Canada,” Nolan said. “We were getting contracted to come in for a day or a couple of days and we started talking as a family and decided that maybe we could create one ourselves for mostly for Indigenous kids.

“We could go into fly-in communities and go to locations that are a little harder to get to,” Nolan added. “Some of the kids don’t have a lot of access to hockey schools. We really just wanted to create a hockey school that was quite different from others.”

Nolan added that the creation of the 3Nolans hockey schools also allowed them to tailor it the way they wanted.

3Nolans hockey schools include a roundtable discussion with participants at the end of the school, which has become one of the most popular parts of every camp.

“The hockey part is amazing and it’s awesome to develop their skills and to get on the ice with them,” Nolan said, “but getting to know them off the ice and hearing questions they may have or giving a little speech about our lives and what we’ve gone through, giving away some prizes so they can have a little bit more fun, that roundtable discussion is just an amazing event.”

Many of the discussions centre around the lives and some of the struggles endured by Nolan, his brother, and father in addition to their success, which includes playing careers for all three as well as a coaching career for Ted.

Brandon added that hearing about the struggles is also crucial.

“Nobody wants to hear just purely about the success,” Nolan said. “It’s important to hear about the struggles you had to go through or the journey you had to go through. Nothing is easy, whether it’s trying to become a professional athlete or doing well at school or doing well at your job. Everything is hard work and that’s what we’re trying to let these kids know is how hard they have to work to be successful and how much it makes that journey feel so much better when you get to the end.”

Brandon added that some of the roundtable is “one of the things we probably look forward to the most.”

As a family, it’s not lost on the members of 3Nolans that the program has also given them time together in the midst of their personal lives as well.

“Everyone is so busy,” Brandon said. “I have three kids. Jordan has two kids, and he has a job with the LA Kings. My father has a full-time job with the Chiefs of Ontario. We’re all very busy and we probably would like to see each other more, but when we get together for the hockey schools or get to travel to a location together, yes, it’s work once we get there and we do the job when we get there, but we do get to spend a lot of time in the car or on the airplane or dinners the night before. We’re pretty lucky to be able to get together in that aspect.”