An NHL first for Ted Nolan, Craig Berube

Rick Stewart

For the first time in NHL history, two coaches of First Nations descent will go head-to-head.

When the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers meet on Thursday night it's not just going to be a meeting of two teams that went through in-season coaching changes.

It's also going to feature an NHL first.

When Ted Nolan's Sabres and Craig Berube's Flyers take the ice in Philadelphia, it will be the first team in league history that two First Nations coaches have ever coached in the same NHL game. Nolan, who is in his second stint with the Sabres after replacing Ron Rolston, is of Ojibwe descent, while Berube, who replaced Peter Laviolette after just three games this season, is part Cree.

Shortly after Nolan was hired by the Sabres William Douglas at Color of Hockey first pointed out that it was probably the first time two First Nations coaches were behind the bench at the same time in the NHL.

And now they will have a chance to coach against each other.

"It's huge," Nolan told Marcus Hayes of the Philadelphia Daily News on Wednesday. "The significance of it is not really what it means to me, or Craig Berube, but what it means when you think of what our ancestors went through."

More from Hayes:

[Nolan] believes a good old boy network limited chances for First Nations candidates to get jobs, to retain them, to be promoted.

"You had to be tougher than the average bear," Nolan said. "There weren't too many places you went that you didn't take some abuse. And you felt you had to be better than others just to get a chance."

Nolan previously coached the Sabres for two years in the mid-1990s before coaching the New York Islanders a decade later.

This season is Berube's first as an NHL head coach.

According to Hayes, the only other First Nations coach in NHL history is Bryan Trottier, who spent 54 games behind the New York Rangers bench in 2002-03.

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