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by Craig Kanalley / Buffalo Sabres
Joe Giacomin with his nephew Marcus Foligno

GLENDALE, AZ -- Close hockey teams are sometimes described as family. After all, it's with the family where it all begins.

Marcus Foligno could tell you that, as could his uncle Joe Giacomin, who was Marcus' choice to accompany him for this year's Sabres "Parent's Trip." The journey kicked off with a cross-country flight escaping the frigid Buffalo temperatures to Arizona on Wednesday. A flight attendant even joked that we were departing the North Pole. It will continue on to Colorado.

"This is a very close family, a tight-knit family, that's been through a lot of ups and downs," Giacomin said of the Foligno's. "A lot of good times, sad times, but they always had one thing: they always had a good work ethic because they had to."

Giacomin -- brother of Marcus' mother Janis, who passed away in 2009 -- said that work ethic has passed down from generation to generation since his grandparents emigrated from Italy. His own uncle, Eddie Giacomin, an NHL Hall of Famer who played for the New York Rangers, made it to the league through hard work.

"Eddie believed that if you were in the NHL, there wasn't a day off. You had to work every day to stay there," Joe said.

Marcus' father, Mike, spent a lot of time around Eddie, especially when dating Janis in high school, and he always admired him for being in the NHL, Joe said. Mike went on to a productive NHL career himself, which included 10 seasons in Buffalo.

Joe Giacomin is just one of several Sabres family members invited to participate in this year's trip. Mike Weber brought his father-in-law, Joe Fanelli.

Fanelli said he's known Mike since he was playing junior hockey for the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires.

"He was kind of hanging around the house a little bit; my daughter started to date him, one thing led to another, they became an item. He went to Portland a while, then Rochester. Mike's been in the (Buffalo) system I guess six or seven years now. At 26 now, he's a veteran."

"We've enjoyed our time following Mike, following the team, and the teams he's been with."

In the past, Weber has taken Steve Ott's mother, Deb, on the annual Parent's Trip, as he billeted with the Ott family while playing in Windsor. "I guess if you hang around long enough, you get invited," Fanelli said with a laugh.

Other family members who have made the trip this year are three fathers: Vincent D'Agostini, Chris McCormick and Butch Ott; Matt Moulson's brother, Chris; Zenon Konopka's mentor, Doug Ranch; and several mothers: Diane Ennis, Marie Hodgson, Lisa McBain, Teresa Miller, Debra Stafford, Tyler Myers' step-mother Susan Myers and John Scott's mother-in-law Susan McCabe.

It's only day one, and Giacomin couldn't say enough good things about the experience so far after returning from dinner with the Ott's, Weber, Fanelli, and his nephew.

"So far it's been fabulous. I got to see Marcus. We went to dinner. We laughed, we giggled, we talked about old-school stuff, we talked about the old six teams, we talked about Eddie Giacomin. We talked about Mr. Ott being in the military for many years and the discipline he had to maintain, what he's done with his son. We're just a bunch of old guys talking about stuff we like to do."

Just members of a hockey family, the Sabres family.

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