Mike Foligno is less than a week removed from living out a dream every father who has a son playing in the NHL has. Last Wednesday, he was in Buffalo when his son Marcus scored twice for the Sabres and, after his first goal, he emulated the leap that Dad made famous during his playing days.
"It was a proud moment as a parent and for Marcus to pay homage to the Foligno leap was nice," said Foligno, who took in the game with his daughter Lisa and her husband.
As Mike sat in his seat at the First Niagara Center, his phone kept vibrating with text messages. His older son Nick was playing for the Ottawa Senators in Montreal that evening, and his older daughter Cara was taking in the action live inside the Bell Centre. She kept the rest of the family updated on what turned out to be a 3-2 shootout loss to the Canadiens.
These are good times for the close-knit Foligno family. The Folignos always were close, but became even tighter three years ago when Mike and his four kids lost his wife and their mother Janis, at age 47, after a five-year battle with breast cancer.
Nick, 24, has struggled to score in the second-half with Ottawa, but he already has set a career high with 41 points in his fifth season with the surprising Senators.
Marcus is off to a flying start since Buffalo recently called him up from the minors. The 20-year-old forward has exhibited why Sabres general manager Darcy Regier had no difficulty in trading away Zack Kassian last month. The younger Foligno has scored five times and has seven points in his first six games, including a two-goal effort in Buffalo's 7-3 win in Tampa Bay on Monday.
"You're proud of all your children," Mike Foligno said. "You're very happy as a father.
"They're your sons. You're proud of their accomplishments.
"You're happy and you're elated that they are realizing their dreams and attaining their goals."
In a perfect world, the elder Foligno would rather be behind an NHL bench. But the Anaheim Ducks let him go as part of head coach Randy Carlyle's staff when the latter was fired last November. Foligno hopes to get another chance next season.
In the meantime, the time off has allowed the older Foligno to spend time with his two daughters and two sons and, when he's home in Sudbury, he keeps a watchful eye on the progress made by Nick and Marcus as well as the rest of the league.
Before he joined Carlyle's staff in the summer of 2010, Mike was head coach and GM of the Sudbury Wolves for seven OHL seasons. With the Wolves, he coached both Nick and Marcus as well as New York Rangers stalwart defenceman Marc Staal and others.
Is it difficult being a hockey coach and a hockey dad at the same time?
"Yes, I am a coach," Mike said. "But when I'm attending their games, I'm just their dad.
"That's really what they want as well. You try sometimes to wear both hats, but you have respect for the coaches they have and the job that they are doing.
"I have a lot of respect for [Ottawa head coach] Paul MacLean and his coaching staff. They have done a tremendous job there in Ottawa.
"It's the same thing with Marcus in Rochester [when he was in the AHL]. Ronnie Rolston has done a great job there with his staff, Jay McKee and Chris Taylor.
"And then, [Buffalo's] Lindy Ruff and his staff has worked with Marcus as well, so you know that they're getting first-class attention. In both cases, I think they have excelled.
"Sometimes, as a parent, you want things to hurry along. Sometimes, you think they should be at a higher level or get more ice time.
"But I've been in the game long enough to know that development doesn't happen in a day. It takes time and experience and there is no way you can hurry experience."
There has been little doubt that the elder Foligno's on-ice work ethic has rubbed off on his sons.
"Life skills as well," Mike Foligno added. "When you coach junior, you're also a parent to your players as well as a coach.
"I think if you talk to any player I've coached, their experience taught them to respect and work well with teammates. Sometimes to be selfish and sometimes be unselfish.
"A coach is a relayer of information. He's trying to transform a player from one area of development to another."
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