BUFFALO – One of Ted Nolan’s favorite parts of his Olympic experience was simply sitting down in the cafeteria and trying to guess which sports the athletes played.
The interim Sabres coach, who led Latvia’s surprising entry at the Sochi Games, said he met an alpine skier from Mexico who’s a prince and someone from Togo.
“I didn’t know where Togo was,” an exited Nolan said today after the Sabres practiced inside the First Niagara Center, their first post-Olympic session.
Nolan has endured a whirlwind couple of weeks. But fatigue couldn’t wipe the smile off his face or hide his Olympic enthusiasm.
“It was just one of those unique opportunities I’ll never forget, for sure,” Nolan said. “And to represent a country, especially one like Latvia, it’s a really cool country and the people are tremendous. People that don’t know too much about the country, they can look it up and go visit it sometime because it’s a tremendous (place).”
After Latvia nearly upset mighty Canada 2-1 Wednesday, he left Sochi at 7 a.m. and got home at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. He slept on the plane and a little bit at home.
“We’ll rest in the summertime,” Nolan joked.
His squad turned heads at the Olympics.
“I couldn’t have been more proud of the group,” Nolan said. “That’s what I mentioned to the guys here. It doesn’t matter (about) your skill set; it matters about your will and desire, and the one thing the Latvians sure did was prove to the world that they can compete with the best in the world.
“We took Canada to 2-1. Any kind of breaks, who knows what could’ve happened? Overall, the effort was tremendous.”
Sabres captain Steve Ott added: “I thought they played phenomenal. Canada, OK, you have 50 shots. But how many outside shots did they have? I liked the way Latvia willed their effort. Canada’s super skilled.”
The Sabres, who are still missing goalies Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth and defenseman Henrik Tallinder, practiced about an hour today with two local netminders. Canisius College’s Adam Harris and Steele DeFazio, a former Junior Sabre who played at Queens University, subbed.
Miller or Enroth, who have Olympic games this weekend, will play Tuesday.
“One of them is going to have to play, for sure,” Nolan said. “So we’ll see which one had the best sleep on the plane coming home.”
Rookie center Zemgus Girgensons, the lone NHL player on Latvia, rested today.
Nolan said forward Cody McCormick, winger Matt Moulson and defenseman Tyler Myers should all return from injuries Tuesday, Nolan said.