Mike Foligno

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Buffalo Sabres’ Captain

The December 1981 trade that brought Mike Foligno to the Buffalo Sabres was among the most seismic events in team history. Long-time stalwarts (and former captains) Danny Gare and Jim Schoenfeld departed for the Detroit Red Wings, but in the swap the Sabres acquired a player possessing like measures of grit, toughness, and leadership…one who also served not only as captain, but as a franchise cornerstone for the following decade.

The all-time most valuable player of his hometown Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Junior Hockey League (a team for which he later served as coach and general manager following his playing days), Mike made an immediate impact with the Red Wings in 1979-80 as one of the league’s top rookies. A model of consistency throughout his stay in Buffalo, Mike scored at least 20 goals in seven consecutive seasons, and achieved lofty rankings on the team’s career leader lists for goals (sixth, with 247), assists (eighth, with 511), power play goals (ninth, with 61), and game-winning goals (third, with 43). In 1985-86, he scored a career-high 41 goals.

Although impressive, the statistics fail to paint a complete picture of Foligno. A feisty, scrappy forward, Foligno battled along the boards, in the corners, and in front of the net, in places where timid players feared to tread. Mike was never afraid to get his nose dirty (or broken) in pursuit of a loose puck, and never shied away from sticking up for teammates when the going got tough. His combative style not only contributed to his 1,450 career penalty minutes (second-most among Sabre players), but made him a fan favorite as well. Mike’s standing with the fans was evidenced by five straight Frank Eddolls Memorial Trophies as the Sabres’ most popular player. The exuberance and enthusiasm that fueled his popularity was manifested by a spirited leap performed after each goal, a ritual exercised 355 times in his National Hockey League career. Stints with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers rounded out Mike’s lengthy stay in the NHL.

Mike brought a host of attributes to the rink – size, intelligence, leadership, and a decided mean streak when necessary. He also brought a score of valuable personal traits to off-ice activities, as his big heart was always open to the less fortunate in the community. In the end, Mike is honored as one of the most well-rounded players in Sabre history, and a worthy entrant to the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.