|Nick Foligno was all smiles when the Senators made him the 28th overall pick of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, held at General Motors Place in Vancouver (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images).
The way Nick Foligno
still sees it, his ‘welcome to the NHL’ moment surely didn’t disappoint.
Not in the least.
“It’s everything it’s cracked up to be, that’s for sure,” Foligno said of that June afternoon when the Ottawa Senators made him the 28th pick of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft at General Motors Place in Vancouver.
“You see the guys before you (get drafted) and you hope you get to do that. Once you get to (that moment), it’s unbelievable. You get all eyes on you for about 10 seconds but it’s a great feeling. It’s something I wish for every kid who goes up there, that they have that exact same feeling. It’s something that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”
Foligno admits now he “had no clue” on the day of the draft that the Senators had him on their radar screen, even if they’d earlier brought him up to Ottawa for a strength and conditioning test.
“I really didn’t think they were in the running at all,” he said. “It was actually funny. The first time I turned away from the stage was when (the Senators group) went up. I was talking to my parents and I heard my name … I couldn’t believe it.
“It was a lot of fun and it was great to have my family there sharing in that moment and that feeling.”
The Foligno clan in Vancouver included father Mike, the former NHLer and Nick’s junior coach with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves; mother Janis, and his three siblings (two older sisters, Cara and Lisa, and younger brother Marcus, who is eligible for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal). And yes, it was quite the family celebration later that night.
"You get all eyes on you for about 10 seconds but it's a great feeling. It's something I wish for every kid who goes up there, that they have that exact same feeling. It's something that you’ll remember for the rest of your life." - Nick Foligno
“That’s the biggest thing, you celebrate,” said Foligno. “You worked a long time to have your name called on that day, so I went out with my family for a nice dinner and we celebrated and it was a lot of fun.”
For the Buffalo-born Foligno, that moment began to seem attainable when he was selected to join USA Hockey’s national team development program based in Ann Arbor, Mich., and made the under-17 squad.
“Ever since then, I realized maybe I could make something out of hockey and it became a dream,” he said. “When you’re little, you always say you want to be an NHL hockey player. But I think it became (realistic) once you realize you’re maybe better than a majority of the kids in the United States.
“It becomes more of a reality and you work a lot harder because you know you can eventually become one.”