By Mike Harrington
PHILADELPHIA -- Tonight's Sabres-Flyers game is a matchup of two rebuilding teams trying to get their footing under new head coaches and won't register much on the overall NHL radar. But it is downright historic to the folks of the First Nation in Canada.
In interim Sabres coach Ted Nolan and Flyers coach Craig Berube, this is believed to be the first game in NHL history pitting two Native Canadians behind the respective benches.
The significance of the game was first noted last week in a post from a blog called, The Color of Hockey upon Nolan's hiring. The Philadelphia Daily News has posted a story on the game on its Web site today as well.
"It's huge," Nolan said here today. "I was pretty happy when I heard Craig Berube was the head coach here. It's really big in First Nation territory back home in Canada. The word spreads quite quick so I'm sure there's a lot of people are extremely proud and will be watching this game.
"It's really good for the next generation of young kids to see that also. We do have a lot of talented kids out there who just need a little break."
When Nolan was the coach of the Sabres from 1995-97 and his teams had plenty of hardcore tiffs with the Flyers, Berube had moved on from Philly and was playing in Washington. In fact, Berube was with the Caps' 1998 Stanley Cup finalists that beat the Sabres in six games in the Eastern Conference. Did Nolan think Berbue, a longtime NHL enforcer who played 1,054 career games, had coaching in his future?
"You have to pay attention to details in order to stay in the league. Some players have natural ability and they just do it," Nolan explained. "Guys like Craig and myself, we had to listen to the coach every detail that they said, in order to comensate for the lack of certain skills we had. You pay attention to detail. You look at almost every coach, they're not the best players in the world but sometimes the hardest-working players end up not being bad coaches."
Berube said yesterday it was "cool" to see the matchup come to pass.
"Teddy and I played against each other in the minors a little bit," Berube said. "That's when I first played against him. I'm very happy for Ted to be back in the NHL. He's a good coach. He'll do a good job there."