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Biography & Autobiography Sports

Life in Two Worlds

A Coach's Journey from the Reserve to the NHL and Back

by (author) Ted Nolan

with Meg Masters

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Oct 2023
Sports, Hockey, Native Americans
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2023
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2024
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


In 1997 Ted Nolan won the Jack Adams Award for best coach in the NHL. But he wouldn’t work in pro hockey again for almost a decade. What happened?

Growing up on a First Nation reserve, young Ted Nolan built his own backyard hockey rink and wore skates many sizes too big. But poverty wasn’t his biggest challenge. Playing the game meant spending his life in two worlds: one in which he was loved and accepted and one where he was often told he didn’t belong.

Ted proved he had what it took, joining the Detroit Red Wings in 1978. But when his on-ice career ended, he discovered his true passion wasn’t playing; it was coaching. First with the Soo Greyhounds and then with the Buffalo Sabres, Ted produced astonishing results. After his initial year as head coach with the Sabres, the club was being called the “hardest working team in professional sports.” By his second, they had won their first Northeast Division title in sixteen years.

Yet, the Sabres failed to re-sign their much-loved, award-winning coach.

Life in Two Worlds chronicles those controversial years in Buffalo—and recounts how being shut out from the NHL left Ted frustrated, angry, and so vulnerable he almost destroyed his own life. It also tells of Ted’s inspiring recovery and his eventual return to a job he loved. But Life in Two Worlds is more than a story of succeeding against the odds. It’s an exploration of how a beloved sport can harbour subtle but devastating racism, of how a person can find purpose when opportunity and choice are stripped away, and of how focusing on what really matters can bring two worlds together.

About the authors

Ted Nolan's profile page

Meg Masters is a Toronto-based writer and editor. She has worked with many bestselling Canadian authors and has penned eleven books.

Meg Masters' profile page

Editorial Reviews


“Full of incredible insights into a tough life that Teddy’s perseverance turned into inspiration. It blew me away.”
—Bryan Trottier, NHL Hall of Famer

“Ted’s beautiful memoir follows a trail of losses and the pain of getting well, and his stunning successes, lifting trophies, lifting lives. Ted was able to reach so many things, but his truth went beyond these things, and it’s the story of how he went beyond, to keep what was true in front of him that makes this book so enjoyable, and so important.”
—Ron MacLean, CBC sportscaster and host of Hockey Night in Canada

“Ted Nolan’s story is truly remarkable. Ted persevered and overcame significant obstacles at a time when Indigenous people were not encouraged, applauded, or even wanted in elite hockey leagues. Ted broke barriers, battled racism, worked hard, and not only became an NHL player but also an elite junior, NHL, and international coach. Ted paved the way for many Indigenous youth to not only participate, but succeed in hockey arenas across North America and Europe as coaches and players.”
—Phil Fontaine, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations
“Playing for Ted Nolan is one of my fondest memories. People called us “The Hardest Working Team in Hockey” and that doesn’t happen without a coach who can show each player their purpose and prove his belief in them. We all played beyond our own abilities for Ted. We led the NHL in penalty minutes and no team wanted to play us in our building. I respect Ted as a coach both on and off the ice, and this book gives a hint of why he inspires that in players and in people in general.”
—Rob Ray, broadcaster and former NHLer

“Teddy was my favourite coach, mentor and friend. I love Ted Nolan. This book gives a good sense of what makes him so special.”
—Brad May, former NHLer, Stanley Cup winner, and AT&T SportsNet analyst
“My father was so proud of Ted; he understood what he was going through. A story of perseverance, Life in Two Worlds is a great read for any generation."
—Neil Sasakamoose, son of Fred Sasakamoose, the NHL’s first Treaty Indigenous player and bestselling author of Call Me Indian

Life in Two Worlds sheds light on some of the uglier aspects of society in the microcosm of the world of hockey, while offering an example of how a strong, proud person can overcome those obstacles to reach the top of his profession without compromising who he is. . . . Hockey fans would do well to read this book, which breaks away from the typical sports biography template and addresses issues which are often swept under the rug.”
—Winnipeg Free Press