LOS ANGELES — Like other young National Hockey League players who are biding their time, waiting for the NHL lockout to end, Los Angeles Kings left wing Jordan Nolan is back in the American Hockey League, having returned to the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs.
But Nolan, 23, has gotten off to a slow start after suffering a broken right pinky finger during a fight in the first game of the season.
“[The healing process] is going well,” Nolan told Frozen Royalty during an exclusive interview. “I’m still working out and skating.”
“[Nolan has] been skating, but he’s still a ways away,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris.
Nolan, who is listed as week-to-week, is not only back in Manchester again, but he is also back with an old roommate.
“[Defenseman] Jake Muzzin and I are living together,” said Nolan. “We lived together the past three years. The first year was Jake, [defenseman] Andrew Campbell, [left wing] Dwight King and myself. Last year, it was Muzzin, King and myself. But this year, it’s just Jake and I, since Dwight didn’t know where he was going to be this year. He came down a little later, so we didn’t have room for him in the apartment.”
Nolan is making the best of things while the NHL and the NHLPA continue to spin their wheels in terms of resolving their labor dispute.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” said the 6-3, 227-pound native of Garden River, Ontario. “You workout all summer, and your main goal is to go back to L.A., make the team, and make another run at [winning the Stanley Cup].”
“Unfortunately, things didn’t work out like that, so I’m down here, working on my game, trying to get better every day, and I’m working out in the gym, even though I’m still trying to [heal],” added Nolan.
“If [the lockout ends up cancelling the entire NHL season], that’s fine. I’ll be down here the rest of the year. We have a pretty solid team. If [the NHL] comes back in a month or two, I’ll be ready to go.”
Like so many others, Nolan expressed disappointment over the labor dispute, especially after his Cinderella 2011-12 season.
“It’s tough, it’s frustrating, you’re disappointed,” he noted. “But the union knows what they’re doing. You’ve got to leave it to the NHLPA to figure out what’s best for the players in the long run. But you want to be out there [on the ice] with everyone after winning the Stanley Cup, and I just got my first taste of the NHL last season, so the last thing you want to do is take a step back, going back to the AHL after working so hard, and making it to the NHL.”
“[But] it’s something you have to deal with,” he added. “There’s nothing you can do. You can’t sit around, pout, and not work hard. I’m still young, and have a lot to prove in my game, and I still have a lot of room to get better. That’s what I’m looking to do here, and whether it’s this year or next year, I’ll be ready [to return to the Kings].”
Having played a little over half a season in the NHL, Nolan is more than anxious to return to NHL ice.
“I only spent a few months in the NHL,” he emphasized. “My goal is to have a long career there. Winning the Stanley Cup in our first year is special, but you want to have that feeling again. You want to have a long career.”
“I want to enjoy playing in the NHL,” he added. “You don’t want to just be there for a few months, and that’s the end of it, so I worked pretty hard this summer, so I was ready for the season, ready for when [the NHL returns to the ice]. Hopefully, they’re back soon enough.”
As mentioned earlier, Nolan’s 2011-12 season was quite the Cinderella story. After all, how many very late-round draft picks, whom no one expected anything from, start the season in the AHL, get a late-season call up their NHL team, and then go on to win the Stanley Cup?
But once he was with the Kings, Nolan never looked back on his way to winning hockey’s version of the Holy Grail.
After all that, having to go back to the AHL has to be quite the letdown after such a magical season.
“It was pretty crazy,” said the seventh round pick (186th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. “L.A. didn’t have the start to the season that they wanted. They struggled during the middle of it. Finishing in eighth place with that team that we had was a disappointment. But we turned it around in the playoffs. We found our game in the first round against Vancouver.”
“To be part of that was pretty special,” added Nolan. “[Kings head coach] Darryl [Sutter] gave us a lot of confidence, and had a lot of faith in me. He put me on the fourth line, and gave us big-time minutes. For him to do that for me, to have faith in me, was pretty special, and I’ll never forget it.”
Indeed, many believed that the call-up of King and Nolan on February 10, 2012, was a desperation move by Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi. But it turned into gold, as they made significant contributions in the remainder of the regular season, and throughout the playoffs, helping lead the Kings to their first Stanley Cup Championship in the 45-year history of the franchise.
“I wasn’t sure how long I’d be up there—for—just a weekend, a few weeks, or whatever was going to happen,” Nolan explained. “But to stay there the rest of the season, throughout the playoffs, play all twenty games, the Stanley Cup Final, and then have my parents there for that big game that we won [Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center in Los Angeles], was definitely a pretty special feeling.”
“Unfortunately, my brother couldn’t be there,” Nolan elaborated. “He had to work, but my parents were just thrilled. They knew all the hard work I put in, and the dedication over the past few years to turn my game around. They’re definitely proud.”
Speaking of Nolan’s family, his father , former Buffalo Sabres head coach Ted Nolan, was with his wife and son during the on-ice celebration at Staples Center immediately after the Kings won the Stanley Cup.
The younger Nolan said that, during the celebration, his father told him, “‘wow! Who would’ve thought! You got called up in February!’”
Garden River’s Favorite Son Brings The Cup Home
Three days after the Kings won the Stanley Cup, the summer of celebration began.
“After we won, I took some time off, with family and friends,” said Nolan “I enjoyed it. I went to Las Vegas with a few of the guys on the team.”
“The parade [near Staples Center] with the Stanley Cup was something special,” added Nolan. “I brought my brother along to join in the celebration, so he had a lot of fun with that. After that, I went to St. Catherine’s, [Ontario] to visit my friends. I stayed there for a week. It was nice to see them.”
“I went to Garden River, that’s my home, where I spend my summers and workout. I definitely took some time to myself for a few weeks, and then, come July, I was right back to it [working out]. Jake Muzzin was there this summer, right across the river, Andrew Campbell came up later to skate with us, so it was definitely a good summer. No problems, no injuries. Training went well, I did well in fitness testing in Manchester this season, so I was definitely ready to go. It’s just too bad [I broke my finger].”
For his “Day With The Cup,” Nolan brought it to Garden River, Ontario, part of the Ojibway nation, one of Canada’s First Nations, population 985 (as of the 2006 census in Canada).
“It was a long day, but it was a pretty fun day,” Nolan reminisced. “My brother and I picked up the Cup at 7:00 in the morning. We had a little ceremony with my family at the graveyard where my [grandparents are buried]. That was pretty emotional for my parents, and my aunts and uncles who were there.”
That was followed by Nolan presenting the Stanley Cup to his community.
“I have to say, in all of my years in being on Council with the Garden River First Nation, this is the proudest day of my career,” Chief Lyle Sayers said in a statement.
“After that, we had a luncheon with the youth of Garden River,” said Nolan. “Then we had a parade, and we took pictures until around 2:00 PM. [Later], we took pictures with family and friends at our house, and then, I took a little time with my own friends.”
“I had ten buddies in town from St. Catherine’s,” added Nolan. “We took a few hours in the afternoon, just hanging out with the Cup, walking around town. We got on a bus, drove around town, and I showed them the sights. At night, we had a little come-and-go [with the Cup] at a hotel banquet room with about 100 people there. We did that for a few hours.”
“We set-up the day pretty good. All the bars knew we were going [to their establishments], and they put up signs saying the Cup would be there. It was pretty exciting to see people wanting to see the Cup, and get a picture with it, and it was nice to see people [wanting] to congratulate me.”
Then the party really started, even though Nolan was reticent to provide details.
“Later that night, my buddies and my family, we went out on the town in Sault, Ste. Marie,” Nolan indicated. “It’s a small town, so there aren’t many places to go. We just went to a local bar, and stayed there the rest of the night.”
In the end, the Cup made its way around two small towns close to Nolan’s heart.
“It was definitely a long day,” he noted. “But it was fun, and it was nice to let my family and friends enjoy it.”
“We’re a small community—about 1,000 people. But for them to see the Cup, and enjoy the day with me, that definitely meant a lot to them.”
Raw Audio Interview with Jordan Nolan
(11:21; Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
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