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My first NHL goal: Nick Foligno

Family ties made CBJ captain's first tally special

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

Scoring a goal at the NHL level is the dream of every young hockey player growing up. It's a memory that lasts forever, the culmination of a lifetime of hard work. 

Usually, players are asked about what it feels like at the time they score the goal, then while the memory lives on in the player, the story sort of fades away. Until now. is catching up with members of the CBJ universe to get their memories of their first NHL goals. 

Nick Foligno thought about all the different ways he could celebrate his first career goal. 

But in the end, there was only one that would work. 

In scoring 355 NHL goals over 15 seasons from 1979-94 for Buffalo, Detroit, Toronto and Florida, Nick's father Mike Foligno became known for the "Foligno leap," an arms raised (and occasionally windmilling), excited jump into the air to celebrate each tally. 

So when Nick beat Carey Price to score his first goal on Oct. 18, 2007, with Ottawa, there was only one thing to do. 

The Foligno leap. 

"The guys were saying, 'You know, if you score your first NHL goal, you have to do your dad's jump. You have to. If you don't, you're fined. We're gonna be all over you,' " Foligno remembers now. "I was like, 'Guys, I don't really want to do this,' but now looking back, I'm really glad I did. It was a great way to honor my dad and his career. 

"As a parent now, too, I think I didn't realize how much he probably appreciated it until now, having kids, and if my kids were ever to do something for me to pay homage to my career or whatever, that would be a pretty special feeling. My brother (Marcus) and I both did that with our goals, paid some respect for my dad and what he's done and what he meant to us." 

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So how did Mike respond? 

"Here Nick is, in the most important time of his life and he was able to do a jump as an homage to me. What an incredible, emotional feeling it was for me," he told the Vegas Golden Knights website in 2017

"These exciting moments happen. You just have to appreciate every little thing that happens in this game." 

There's plenty of other family connections to the goal, as well. The second assist went to Wade Redden, a longtime Sens standout who Foligno lived with for a time as a rookie and ended up marrying one of Foligno's cousins. 

In addition, Nick's mother, Janis, who passed away after a courageous battle with breast cancer in 2009, was alive to see it, something the CBJ captain cherishes to this day. 

"I think being able to score my first NHL goal with my mom still alive, that was pretty special as well," he said. "Knowing that she got to see that and have that feeling was really special, and having that phone call with her and how happy she was for me, all those emotions start flooding in. It's just an amazing moment for sure." 

There is little doubt the Folignos are a hockey family, and it seems like Nick was destined for NHL stardom from the time he was a kid. Having been born in Buffalo when his dad played for the Sabres, he was chosen for the prestigious U.S. National Team as a teenager, moving to Michigan to play with the best players in the country like Phil Kessel, Nathan Gerbe and Jack Johnson, among others. 

He then headed to Sudbury in 2004 to play under his father, who by then was the head coach and general manager of the city's OHL franchise. Nick spent three years with the Wolves and was a first-round pick of the Ottawa Senators in 2006, further cementing his status as a future NHLer. 

Finally, he made his debut with the Sens as a 19-year-old in 2007, joining a team that a season earlier had lost in the Stanley Cup Final to Anaheim. Upon making his debut, Foligno played seven full games without getting on the score sheet.  

Looking back, Foligno knew it had taken him a while to get that first goal, but he didn't remember that it was game eight when it finally happened. 

"I was trying to be nice to myself," he says with a laugh. "I remember we played a back-to-back against Toronto my first two games. We played in their rink and then our rink, and I had a wide-open net (in the opener) and Andrew Raycroft absolutely robbed me. He came out of nowhere and made this pad save on a wide-open net, and I was like, 'Oh my God, if this is how hard it is going to be...'  

"It ended up going six more games." 

Finally, he opened his NHL goal scoring account on Oct. 18 with the Sens hosted Montreal. With the game tied at 1 early in the second period, Redden got the puck at the blue line and shot it, with Mike Fisher getting a piece of it as it headed toward Price in net. 

From there, Foligno was in front and collected the loose puck. He then wrapped around the net on his backhand with Price down and out, beating the goalie and the Canadiens to the back post before flipping the puck into the net. Then came one twirling jump followed by a full-fledged Foligno leap. 

"It's funny, the one thing that stands out in my head is I actually had a wide-open net off a rebound in the first place and I decided to take it around the net and tuck it in on the other side," Foligno said. "That's one thing I always laughed about. I think I was so excited I wanted to put my own flair I guess on the goal, make it harder on myself. But yeah, it was an amazing feeling." 

Ottawa went on to win the game 4-3 to improve to 7-1-0, though that Sens team would not make a repeat run as conference champs, going 43-31-8 before losing to Pittsburgh in the opening round of the playoffs. Foligno, meanwhile, spent five seasons with the Sens before being traded to Columbus in the summer of 2012; he now has 196 NHL goals to his credit. 

His dad has the framed puck from the first one, though, and now that Foligno has time and perspective on his side, he's not only able to appreciate what he accomplished 13 years ago, he is able to see a whole new slew of teammates experience their own special moments. 

"When you see other guys score their first goals, you realize how much it means," he said. "That's the coolest part for me, now you see guys come in and you see their first goal and how happy they are. It kind of brings you back every time to that moment you scored yours. It's a great thing to be able to see people experience it, and you kind of walk down memory lane every time." 

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