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Heritage, Hockey, and Hope: The 3Nolans Bring their Story to SMCS

The Nolan family story is a study in perseverance.

And like father, like sons.

The Nolan family will speak with SMCS students in October 2022
Brandon (left), his father, Ted (centre), and younger brother Jordan (right) form the 3Nolans.
Photo courtesy of: 3Nolans

“You’re tougher mentally than you think you are,” is how Brandon, the eldest son of former NHL coach Ted Nolan, summarizes the journey so far.

Brandon Nolan on Carolina Hurricanes | SMCS
Brandon played six games for the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes.
Photo courtesy of: 3Nolans

Brandon, his younger brother Jordan, and their father Ted are slated to speak to students and staff at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) in early October 2022.

And there is so much for the 3Nolans to talk about.

A serious concussion just six games into his NHL career abruptly ended Brandon’s hockey dreams in 2007.

“That time was extremely hard,” says the 39-year-old who grew up in Garden River First Nation, an Ojibwe reserve outside Sault Ste-Marie. “I [was] 25 years old, having to retire from the game that I loved. That was really all I knew. I had no education past high school.”

It forced him to a two-year break to try and recover from the brain trauma.

Throughout and post-concussion, he persevered.

“It allowed me to go to college, to get educated about being focused on other things, not just hockey, because I was just so hockey-driven.”

Brandon would go on to earn a business administration diploma with a marketing focus.

In 2013, he helped launch 3Nolans, which among other things offers hockey development skills training in First Nations communities and delivers motivational talks.

Brandon Nolan and his family will speak with SMCS students
Brandon Nolan was forced to retire from hockey following a serious concussion, which then required a recovery period of more than two years.
Photo courtesy of: 3Nolans

“It’s just good to hear other people’s point of view in certain aspects of life,” he continues. “We are giving a different perspective, an Indigenous point of view.”

The trio share their story in corporate boardrooms, classrooms, dressing rooms, and elsewhere, striving to inspire.

“Just work hard, and being a good person,” he says. “If they’re walking away with that takeaway, then we’re happy. Finding ways to give back to your community is a very important lesson to us as well.”

Hockey camps run by 3Nolans | SMCS
In addition to speaking, the 3Nolans also run hockey camps for First Nations youth.
Photo courtesy of: 3Nolans

Brandon recalls his only previous direct interaction with SMCS. It came when he played in the school’s arena as a member of the Oshawa Generals back in the early 2000s.

Now, as a father of three children himself, aged 10, 8, and 5, he is even more mindful of the audience.”You’ve got a lot going on when you’re a young boy,” he says. “You’ve got to have good leadership, you’ve got to go to people, even at the top — whether it’s the president of the school or the president of a hockey team or the head coach — those people in leadership positions need to set a good example.”

Jordan Nolan with his mom and the Stanley Cup | SMCS
Jordan, accompanied by his parents, including mom Sandra, has three Stanley Cup rings. Two with the LA Kings and one with St. Louis.
Photo courtesy of: 3Nolans

Brandon and Jordan have their father Ted as their example.

Jordan Nolan and his father Ted | SMCS guest speakers
Jordan Nolan with his father Ted in 2018. The senior Nolan won the Jack Adams Award in 1997 as coach of the year with the Buffalo Sabres.
Photo courtesy of: 3Nolans

In an article published on in 2019, Ted, a former NHL player and coach of the year — who won the award in just his second year as an NHL coach — described his upbringing in a family of 12 children:

“The house that we had early on had no electricity, no indoor plumbing. I never had a shower inside a house until I was 16 years old when I went away to Kenora, Ontario. But what we lacked in amenities my parents made up for with love, caring, and good family values that I carry to this day.”

Nolan is one of only three men of First Nations descent ever to have coached in the NHL. Craig Berube, current head coach of the St. Louis Blues and Bryan Trottier, who was a coach with four teams, after a career during which he won four Stanley Cups — are the others.

“Ted Nolan’s far-reaching example of how to persevere, how to be resilient and teach and motivate young men is an example that I hope the St. Michael’s community can take away from the day with the 3Nolans,” says Joseph Coccimiglio, science teacher at SMCS.

A native of Sault Ste-Marie with a background of more than 25 years in hockey at all levels, Coccimiglio is the chief architect of the 3Nolans visit to SMCS.

For his part, Brandon Nolan, along with his brother and father hope their visit will be impactful.

The Nolan family are guest speakers at SMCS.
Photo courtesy of: 3Nolans

“We always hear stories about people doing great things in life,” he says referring to messages the 3Nolans receive from those who’ve heard their story. “And really, when you hear that, it comes full circle. It just makes you feel really good.”

Perseverance in action, paid forward.

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