Blue Jackets left winger Nick Foligno talks about the influence his dad had on his career, and ‘The Hug’ with Sergei Bobrovsky.
With Matt Larkin
Why do you wear No. 71?
It was given to me when I first got to camp in Ottawa (as a Senator). The trainers thought it would be funny, because that’s what number my dad (Mike Foligno) wore. I don’t think they realized I was just was just happy to be there, so I didn’t care what number I was going to wear (laughs).
Whom do you model your game after?
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to model my game after him, but Peter Forsberg, besides my dad, was my idol growing up. He was a guy I was lucky enough to get to know a little bit when my dad was coaching in Colorado, too. He was an outstanding player in terms of how physically he played the game and how good he was, too. He was someone I looked up to big-time.
What was your favorite team growing up?
Usually it was whatever team my dad was playing for or coaching, and it was always the Avalanche after that, because of Peter Forsberg.
What’s your favorite way to score?
Ooh, that’s a good one. Probably on a breakaway (laughs). Those are fun ways to score. A deke is usually my favorite way to score. But those don’t happen all that often anymore for some reason in this league. It’s hard to get one. Darn goalies.
What was your “welcome to the NHL” moment?
Andy Sutton, big, hulking defenseman. I ended up playing with him in Ottawa, but at the time he was with the Islanders. I cut across him in the middle, and my stick ended up going about four feet into the rafters, and I went about four feet the other way. I’ll never forget that hit, because that was the first time I got absolutely levelled in the NHL. I was like, “This better be that last time I get hit like that.”
Who was your main mentor growing up?
For sure my dad. I was lucky enough to have a dad that’s played and coached, and I definitely used him a lot to pick his brain on a lot of things. That was a big reason why I am where I am today.
What advice would you give your 13-year-old self?
Don’t take anything for granted. At 13 years old, things can come a little easy to you, and as you get older, you realize you have to work a little harder for everything else, especially in the NHL, when there’s always someone looking for your job.
What’s your favorite thing about being an NHLer?
I love that I get to play the game I love. And that’s the biggest thing, the passion that comes with it. I just thoroughly enjoy playing this game. And to play it at the highest level against the best players in the world makes it the most fun. It takes care of your family, and it’s an incredible thing. You’ve got to pinch yourself sometimes.
What’s the hardest thing about being an NHLer?
About playing in the NHL? “Playing in the NHL is the hardest thing!” (laughs) No, the hardest thing is the balancing act of consistency you need to have night in and night out and making sure you’re at the top of your game. That’s something every player strives for, and the elite ones find it all the time. It’s a constant battle for every player. And having a family now, it’s tough too, being away from them. But it’s the price you pay for what we’re in right now.
What was your first extravagant purchase with your first contract?
I bought a Range Rover. That was my big thing. My mom was adamant that I would not buy one, and like every good boy, you go against your mother’s wishes. She was probably right. I was way too ahead of my time. But it was awesome. You know what I mean? You get so excited. Plus you see all these other guys on your team and aspire to be like them eventually. So that was the big one. It was probably a stupid purchase at the time, but I definitely loved that vehicle. I miss it.
What’s your strangest fan interaction?
I do this thing with (goaltender Sergei) ‘Bob’ Bobrovsky where we hug at the end of games. It’s turned into a pretty big thing in Columbus. And I just find it weird when grown men ask me to hug me like Bob. So I’ve avoided it at all costs, and it makes for an awkward conversation when they’re like, “Can you just give me the Bobrovsky hug?” and I’m like, “Dude, that’s really weird. Why would you want that?” That one always bugs me a little bit, but it’s great that they love the hugs so much. It makes it pretty comical.