ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Every time Minnesota Wild forward Marcus Foligno touches the ice, he is reminded of his mom, Janis. The memories are especially clear on Hockey Fights Cancer night, which the Wild will host against the Philadelphia Flyers at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; FS-N, NBCSP+, NHL.TV). Foligno, 26, lost his mom to breast cancer on July 27, 2009, when he was 18 years old.
"My mom sacrificed a lot for me to be where I am, and that's what pushes me every time I step on the ice," Foligno said. "I think of her no matter what."
Like most hockey moms, Janis Foligno was a rink rat. She spent countless hours tying skates, commuting to rinks and cheering in the stands, and she wanted nothing more than to see her four children -- Nick, Cara, Lisa and Marcus -- succeed in the sport they loved. Her two sons accomplished that feat by making their way into the National Hockey League; Nick Foligno is a forward with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Janis was able to witness Marcus' selection in the fourth round (No. 104) of the 2009 NHL Draft by the Buffalo Sabres, but she missed the chance to watch him play in a game. She died one month later.
"It was emotional knowing that it felt like your mom held on just to see where you were going to go," Marcus said, "and knowing I was drafted by Buffalo where we had family and friends from when my dad [Mike Foligno] was a player there. … it kind of felt she was at peace with it all, knowing her youngest was going somewhere she liked."
Marcus spent six seasons with the Sabres before signing a four-year, $11.5 million contract with the Wild on Sept. 15. The contract has an average annual value of $2.875 million.
"It definitely was a special moment, and then it was tough," he said. "You get drafted, you come back to juniors and you're dealing with the loss of your mother and you know you've got to keep playing hockey.
"But hockey was what helped, because you know how much your mom sacrificed for it. She loved it as much as all of us."
Janis battled breast cancer for more than six years. One year after her death, in 2010, the Foligno family formed the Janis Foligno Foundation to honor her legacy. The Foundation aids cancer charities in raising money to help fund research and assist families going through the same hardships the Folignos did.
Marcus will also honor is mother on Tuesday, thanks to Hockey Fights Cancer month, a joint initiative between the NHL and NHL Players' Association.
In addition to wearing lavender warmup jerseys, which the Wild will auction off beginning Wednesday, he will have a patch with his mother's initials "JF" underneath his chest protector -- close to his heart, where she always has been.
"She was just a great person who loved seeing her kids play," Foligno said. "She supported me throughout my entire career and volunteered herself to so many different charities as well, I'm just happy to make her proud."