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Foligno Has Already Made His Impact Felt

Veteran forward's leadership has been on full display through Bruins training camp

by Eric Russo @erusso22 /

BOSTON - Nick Foligno remembers well the rides home from the rink.

If things went awry, he knew he could expect a silent journey - until the car reached the driveway. It was then that his father, Mike, his coach with the OHL's Sudbury Wolves and a former NHL strongman, would let him know how and why things went wrong.

"He'd always wait until we pulled into the driveway and lay into us," said Foligno, whose brother, Marcus, also played for his dad in Sudbury. "It would be a really quiet ride home and then, boom, he'd let it go. And then at the end, he'd say, I still love you and walk into the house."

Foligno recalled those memories fondly as he explained the invaluable influence that his father - who played over 1,000 games in the NHL from 1979-94 - has had on his career.

That fatherly advice has clearly paid dividends as the 33-year-old enters his 15th season in the National Hockey League just 43 games away from eclipsing the 1,000-game plateau himself, longevity that has no doubt been buoyed by all those lessons learned along the way.

"What it taught me when he coached me is there's a standard and you can't dip below it and I think it helped me enter the NHL at 19 years old," said Foligno, who debuted with the Ottawa Senators during the 2007-08 campaign. "Having a guy like him coach me at a really formidable time in my career, it taught me that there's a standard that you have to get to every night to play in the NHL.

"I think you always search for that as a player, but I think he made me realize how important that is and it's something I pride myself in."

Foligno, however, believes there is one thing that he took from his dad that trumps all.

"The biggest thing I probably take away from my dad - and maybe it's not a skill characteristic - but it's just the love of the game," said Foligno. "I love to compete with my teammates. I love to try to get the best out of them. I love to get to know them on a personal level."

Nearly a month into his tenure with the Bruins, Foligno has made a concerted effort to be a friendly face to everyone around the rink, while also displaying the qualities that have made him one of the league's most respected veteran leaders for nearly a decade.

"Learning when to keep guys honest…with doing that, you've got to keep yourself honest," Brandon Carlo said when asked about becoming a leader himself. "Noticed that with Foligno already. He's fantastic about that. Love having him around. He's a great element to that leadership aspect and there's a lot that I can learn from him as well."

Carlo is hardly the only one learning from Foligno. Even Boston's captain is looking to draw from the veteran forward's experience.

Patrice Bergeron has helped develop a culture and identity of accountability, respect, and commitment in Boston throughout his 18-year tenure with the Black & Gold, but he is welcoming any input from Foligno when it comes to further strengthening the bond within the Bruins' dressing room.

"I want to make sure he's able to tell us what he thinks, things that he thinks can be better, new ideas that can be helpful," said Bergeron. "I want to hear about that; we want to hear about that as a leadership group. I think that's how you get better.

"It's to make them feel comfortable, make a guy like Nick feel comfortable that he can come in and be himself and bring in his leadership and that there's room for it."

Throughout a decade of sustained success that has included three trips to the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins - led by a veteran core boasting the likes of Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchand, and David Krejci - have been lauded for the culture and attitude they have created on and off the ice. Foligno has long been an admirer of Boston's approach.

"Oh yeah…absolutely. That was something I knew from afar," Foligno said of the Bruins' reputation of having one league's strongest veteran cores. "I jokingly say I hated these guys when I played against them…that's usually a sign of respect. They just do things the right way. They play hard and they're just so consistent."

Foligno is now a part of that "they" and it has not taken long for him to experience firsthand what so many around the National Hockey League have known for years.

"As I walked into this room and watched them work and prepare for the season even though it's only been [a few weeks], there's been an intensity with which they work and talk to each other about the way the season is gonna go. I'm excited just to complement that," said Foligno.

The 33-year-old was signed to a two-year deal on the opening day of free agency back in July with Bergeron playing an integral part in convincing him that the Black & Gold - and that esteemed locker room culture - were the right the fit for him at this stage of his career.

"I'm really just looking forward to learning from the leadership group here and that was a big reason why I wanted to come play here. Patrice convinced me, amongst other guys, and you could just see the way they go about their business here." said Foligno, who spent the final seven games of the 2020-21 regular season, as well as the playoffs, with the Toronto Maple Leafs after being traded from Columbus at the deadline.

"You're always getting the same brand of hockey every time you play them. I wanted to be a part of that, I was excited to join a team like that and I think it has a lot to do with their leadership and it trickles on down…I'm just really excited to be a part of that and hopefully help complement that and grow this to another championship."

Foligno thought back to the Bruins' last run at a championship in 2019 as the perfect example of why the Black & Gold are so admired around the league. Unfortunately for the 2006 first-round pick, he was on the wrong side of Boston's charge to the Stanley Cup Final as the B's came back from a 2-1 series deficit to eliminate the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games during the second round.

He remembered, vividly, the relentless nature in which the Bruins approached each and every shift, which eventually proved too much for Columbus to overcome.

"Probably the best team we've assembled in Columbus in a long time," Foligno said of the 2019 Blue Jackets. "I remember we got up to a 2-1 series lead against them in that series and then they just kept coming. We thought we had them on the ropes and all of a sudden, the next game, they just come and come in waves. They just consistently play the right way."

Foligno would like nothing more than for the Bruins to put forth another long run next spring and he's aiming to be crucial piece of the puzzle by doing whatever is best for the club.

"I'm actually excited about that. It's a clean slate in a lot of ways," said Foligno, who spent parts of nine seasons in Columbus, the final six as the team's captain. "I know what I bring and what I can help with on this team but at the end of the day it's where I'm fitting. I've learned that as I've gone on.

"If we're gonna try to be as good a team as we expect to be then everyone is gonna slot in and find their role; and the teams that find it early enough usually have that success sustained all year long. I'm another cog in the wheel of trying to find that. I'm excited about finding my place on this team and where I'm gonna fit best."

So far, Foligno has fit best on Boston's third line, riding on the right wing alongside Jake DeBrusk and Erik Haula. It is a trio that appears to have developed some quick chemistry throughout the preseason and could provide coach Bruce Cassidy with a dependable line in various sitautions.

"I really like our line," said Foligno, who preaches verbal communication amongst his linemates. "I think Haula is a good worker and a skilled player and a responsible player. Jake's got that skill and that ability to make plays and we'll just try to complement that. If that's one of the groups we go with, we can do some damage and be a reliable line.

"I think that's always something that no matter where you're playing in the lineup, the coach's trust is most important. If we can do the right things and come together as a group and earn that trust, then we're gonna get out there in certain moments to help our team win and that's all you want to do as players."

To do that, Foligno will do his part by drawing on his experience - from those drives home with his father to his half-decade stint as a captain in Columbus - as he tries to navigate settling into a new environment.

"Luckily, I've been in the league a long time," said Foligno. "It's just come in and be who you are, confident in who I am, what I bring, but all the while knowing there's a leadership group intact here that's done an outstanding job. If you can come in and complement that, myself even learn from that that, I'm looking forward to that.

"That's a big reason why I wanted to come here. I knew the room kind of ran itself. If I can help in a way, I'd love to do that."

Video: Foligno talks during Training Camp on Friday

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