When a team logs the best regular season in NHL history and gets bounced from the playoffs in round one, there’s going to be some carnage. It’s no surprise that the aging fourth-line locker room guy was one of the first players the Boston Bruins sent packing this offseason.
A lot of players in this position might be apathetic about joining a team that’s nowhere near contention at this stage in their career. A 16-year NHL veteran without a ring is probably thirsting for a Stanley Cup. Nick Foligno, however, is eager to get to Chicago, where he’ll play more minutes and mentor young stars.
In a recent interview with Sportsnet’s “The Fan Morning Show,” Foligno opened up about why a role with the Blackhawks checks all of his boxes.
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“When Chicago called and started to go down the road of the possibility of going there, it just really excited me. I think it was what I needed right now in my career. The opportunity to play a little bit higher up — I feel healthy, I feel great and I’m looking forward to that expanded role a little bit even at my age.
“But also just the direction they’re headed, you know, to help build something. I kind of did that in Columbus when I first got there with a really great group of guys, and it reminds me of that a little bit. I feel like I have the blueprint. I really like the people that are in the organization, and, obviously, Connor Bedard is a special talent that I’m looking forward to playing with.”
If you can’t go chasing Stanley Cups, the opportunity to mold one of the greatest prospects in hockey history is a pretty gnarly consolation.
“How many times do you really get to work with a generational talent?” Foligno said. “There’s only been a few that have come into our league. I think what excites me is him off the ice. Getting to know the person behind the player and how they motivate themselves but also the areas that you can help.
“You can’t forget, he’s never played in the NHL. He’s never had these pressures. It’s a whole different beast here in the NHL, and these are grown men who understand how to be pros. And that’s where you get to teach him. So I’m excited about giving him what I’ve learned. I came into an incredible locker room in Ottawa with some of the leaders and people that I worked with, and feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to use that, pass that on to all the teams I’ve been on. So that’s what I’m excited about and looking forward to with Connor. And all the guys, not just him. There’s so many young players that hopefully we can make a great impression on.”
Foligno knows a young star like Bedard needs a rock-solid support system, and the former captain is determined to yield a tight-knit locker room that’s a safe space for players to blossom, bond and have fun.
“Connor’s not going to be able to hide from [the spotlight] in the world we live in now,” Foligno said. “But I think how you are as a room helps you in those moments. If he knows that we all have his back, and if we know that he’s loving coming to work every day and the passion is there, then all of that stuff really doesn’t matter. He’s enjoying just being an NHL hockey player and rolling with the team he’s on. That’s what I want to bring. I want to try and help with a lot of great guys that we have already in that room. We got Corey Perry coming in, Taylor Hall, Seth Jones is there, Connor Murphy. There’s a lot of really good players, Stanley Cup champs even, that know how to do that. I’m excited about being another piece of that and helping these young guys in understanding that that’s the most important part. How tight you are as a group is gonna dictate how successful we are as a team, and I hope to bring that to Chicago.”
For a 35-year-old player on a one-year contract, Foligno’s enthusiasm for the project ahead is unique. His admirable attitude towards investing in a future he likely won’t be a part of is exactly why the Blackhawks acquired him.
“I’m really excited about being a Blackhawk and going on this adventure with this team,” Foligno said. “I’m really excited about getting to know these guys and the city, and going from there.”