Mike Foligno was a tireless work and team leader of the Buffalo Sabres for most of the 1980s. An extremely physical forward, excelled along the boards and in the corners, where he'd smash any opponent in site. But he was a valuable player in that he could make plays with the loose pucks his exuberance created. He had good anticipation who saw the ice fairly well. He was more of a power forward than an artist of the ice, so he relied more on his heavy shot than playmaking abilities. His wrist shot was particularly deadly.
Mike was born in Sudbury, Ontario, but spent his early years in Italy where he took up the traditional sport of soccer, where he participated in nets. When Mike returned with his family at the age of 10, he was introduced to hockey. He was instantly attracted to the physical game on ice.
Mike learned to skate and play in a small outdoor rink in Sudbury. In fact he played his entire minor and junior career in his hometown. He became a scoring sensation with the Sudbury Wolves (OHA). He scored a total of 347 pts (165 goals plus 182 assists) in 258 games for the Wolves, including a league leading 150 pts in his final season. His teammates in Sudbury included future NHLers Dale Hunter and Hector Marini. His coach in Sudbury was the former NHLer Jerry Toppazzini.
His final season of junior hockey impressed the NHL scouts who all had him very high on their lists. Mike was the complete package. He was a good scorer, good two-way player and had a mean streak that they loved. He was selected in the 1st round, 3rd overall in 1979 by Detroit and was an immediate hit in Hockeytown. Mike finished his rookie season in 1979-80 with 71 pts for the lowly Red Wings and finished as the runner-up for the rookie of the year honours behind legendary defenseman Ray Bourque.
Mike played 2½ seasons in Detroit before he was traded to Buffalo. And it was in Buffalo that Mike achieved the greatest success. He stayed there for 10-seasons and was extremely popular. A testament to this was that he won the Frank Eddolls Memorial Trophy five years in a row, given to Buffalo's most popular player.
People in Buffalo loved his never-say-die attitude on the ice. He was tough, mean and played hard every night and never complained. Mike was the ultimate professional in everything he did on the ice. He also became known for his scoring ceremony. He always used to make a high jump in the air after he scored a goal...He had the opportunity to jump 370 times in his career. Mike was a steady goal scorer and cracked the 40-goal barrier once, 30-plus goals four times and 20-plus goals five times. In total surpassed the 20 goal mark a total of ten times in his NHL career.
Mike was traded to Toronto late in 1990 when it was felt he was near the end of his career. The Sabres got Lou Franceschetti and Brian in return, but Foligno proved he could still play. He became a valuable checker and fourth line player Though he scored at just a fraction of his old production in Buffalo, he remained an exuberant force for the Leafs for parts of four seasons. However he missed the majority of the 1991-92 season due to a broken leg suffered just prior to Christmas 1991. Ironically, Foligno broke his leg in a game against the Buffalo Sabres.
Mike ended his career in 1993-94 after playing most of the season in sunny Florida for the Panthers. While playing in Florida he surpassed the magical 1000 game mark, something that further underlines the fact that he had a very successful NHL career although a Cup win eluded him.
Mike turned to coaching and scouting after his playing days were over.