Mike Foligno, former Hershey Bears coach (1998-2003), returned to Hershey for the first time 12 years later and joked about maybe coming back to get two more wins to have the second most wins in franchise history.
“I didn’t know until you told me that my 186 wins is one behind Chuck Hamilton who is second behind Frank Mather’s more than 600,” said Foligno. “All I can say is I really enjoyed my years in Hershey. My family grew up here and my two sons Nick (Captain of Columbus) and Marcus (Minnesota) are playing in the NHL because of their experiences in minor hockey here.”
Thirty-two year old Nick spent 2007-12 with Ottawa and now is in his 12th season with Columbus. In 2000 and 2001 he played for Hershey in the Quebec International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament. Marcus, now 28, skated six seasons with Buffalo and the last three for Minnesota.
Mike Foligno was a 1979 Detroit first round pick (third overall) who never played one game in the AHL, but was an assistant coach for Chicago Wolves one season. Between 1979-94 he played 1,018 NHL games, scored 355 goals, handed out 372 assists for 727 points and accumulated 2,057 penalty minutes for Detroit, Buffalo, Toronto and Florida.
“Working with young kids the past few years has kept me going because there are such great people in and around the game, and that keeps me active and feeling good,” Foligno said. “It’s nice to see these guys in the AHL now and know many of them will be NHLers in the future. It’s great to watch them start to identify their skill level and be able to project where they will be in the next couple years.
“I think that being a coach, like I was, helps not only the players you’re working with on a daily basis, but it also helps me evaluate players as a scout which is what I’m doing now for the New Jersey Devils,” continued Foligno. “A coach at any level evaluates what he has talent-wise, along with his physicality and skills.”
Foligno added: “The other part is the intangible drive and passion along with work ethic each guy has, and you’re doing that all the time. You’re trying to help them maximize their potential in all those areas to move up to the next level. As a scout and having been a coach, I have that eye already and know what to look for and feel I’m able to do my job better because I’ve coached in different leagues.”
When questioned about changes in the game that he has seen over his lengthy career Foligno said, “In the old days video was basically just for the coaches and you’d isolate a certain part of your game or on a certain player to show what he did wrong. Now it has evolved that the teams are able to give players all their shifts in a game and breakdown things to a certain shift that you really want to focus on.
“When utilized properly, because you don’t want to be in a player’s face every day, it gives the coach a way to communicate and identify where a guy can improve,” Foligno added. “They can’t say they didn’t make that mistake because they can see what the coach is talking about on the video. It gives coaches an opportunity to work one-on-one with a player, or on special teams to help them get better.”