BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres will host their Hockey Fights Cancer night on Thursday when they play the Minnesota Wild, and it will have special meaning to Sabres forward Marcus Foligno.
Foligno's mom, Janis, died of breast cancer on July 27, 2009, one month after Foligno, 17 years old at the time, was selected in the fourth round (No. 104) of the 2009 NHL Draft by the Sabres. Now that he's established himself in the NHL, Folgino said he owes his career to his mother.
"At a young age when you lose your mother, it's tough, but it definitely inspires you to work harder and work for her," Foligno, 25, said. "In a month like this, when you're playing games in Breast Cancer Awareness Month or Cancer Awareness Month, it's that much more special when you lace them up to go play for your team and for the cause."
Hockey Fights Cancer month is an initiative sponsored by the NHL to raise awareness and money to combat the disease. The Sabres have teamed with the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, and players will wear purple Hockey Fights Cancer jerseys in warmups and use purple tape during the game (7 p.m. ET; MSG-B, FS-N, FS-WI, NHL.TV).
"The NHL has done a great job with it giving a team the opportunity to wear some purple jerseys in warmups, and it's just great to have support from and be in a league that supports a tough cause that I'm sure everyone's been touched by or has a loved one that's been taken by it or battling through it," Foligno said. "It's great to be in a league that supports it, and it makes it that much more of a special night when you're playing in a Hockey Fights Cancer game."
In the past five years, the Sabres have donated $25,000 to Flashes of Hope, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding a cure for children's cancer. Several players recently visited Roswell Park to see children who have been helped by Flashes of Hope.
"It hurts a little bit more to see them like that at such a young age," Foligno said. "They have so much more of a life ahead of them and you don't want to see them be sick so early. But yeah, it's great [to visit them]. I like to do the best I can in this community, the most we can in this community to contribute to things like that. Spend 15, 20, 30 minutes with a kid and talk about whatever it is to get their mind off of any of the stress they're going through with the sickness. … It's a tremendous day for people to open up their eyes and see what people are going through on a daily basis and how fortunate we are."
Foligno, who was born in Buffalo, is in his sixth season with the Sabres and he's been a big part of many charity events and fundraisers in recent years. He also helped establish the Janis Foligno Foundation in Canada in 2010 with his father and former Sabres captain Mike Foligno, brother Nick Foligno of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and sisters Cara and Lisa.
That may seem like a lot for anyone to take on, especially at a young age, but with a loved one serving as inspiration, it created all the motivation Foligno needed to help his career and off-ice work.
"[My mom] was a hard-working person and she always wanted us to be ourselves and be hard-working people as well," Foligno said. "So every time you go out there and play a game, you're always thinking about her and you're making sure you're working and knowing she'd be proud of you."