Nick Foligno broke his leg last week. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it allowed him to be with his family Saturday night at Sudbury Community Arena for the first ever Pink in the Rink event hosted by the Sudbury Wolves prior to their game against the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors.
The event was in memory of Janis Foligno, who passed away from cancer in July 2009. It was also to honour all hockey mothers everywhere.
Nick tossed his crutches aside and took a deep breath as he took his turn to step on the ice and address the fan base that was almost completely decked out in pink clothing.
The moment wasn't lost on him and meant everything to him.
"It was emotional," Nick said. "It was unbelievable to see everyone here tonight. It was a nice tribute to my mom and all hockey moms out there. It's nice people show they care and that is what this community is all about. It was good for me to get back. I should have been playing against Toronto tonight. Things happen for a reason and I'm happy I got to come home for this."
The Sudbury organization showed a tribute video of Janis and the Foligno family. Almost every mother and billet "mother" of the players were in attendance and came out on the ice for the ceremony and received a pink rose from the players. There was also video segments shown throughout the game of Wolves' players messages to their mothers.
Dry eyes were hard to find.
"It was emotional for a lot of people," Sudbury head coach and GM Mike Foligno said. "There was incredible support here tonight. What a great turnout. I understand the donations were unbelievable. It was a real success for the city of Sudbury ... we were able to help the community with people that have been affected by the disease of cancer. I want to thanks our great fans for their support. Everyone in the Sudbury Wolves organization were proud to be part of it."
The Foligno sisters — Lisa and Cara — were on hand for the event. Both women were moved by the support the Nickel City showed.
"Seeing how much people care here, the support was overwhelming. It was amazing to see," Cara said.
Lisa felt the same way.
"The turnout was amazing and we couldn't have asked for more," she said.
The Majors franchise stepped up and made a $1,000 donation towards the Janis Foligno Foundation.
The Majors were proud to be part of the special event, but also took care of business in the game afterwards by defeating Sudbury 8-3, after being down 2-0 early in the game.
"It was a special night for a good cause and about a great lady," Mississauga head coach Dave Cameron said. "We all feel proud to be a part of it all. It's nice to give back to a community. It was a spirited game afterwards. We were down early, but if you're going to be successful in this league, you have to come from behind to win games. It's the earmark of a good team. We gave up those early goals, regrouped and the first goal by Casey Cizikas gave us an emotional lift. We played solid hockey after that."
The game started with a bang as the Wolves cam charging out of the gates and stormed to a 2-0 lead thanks to quick goals by Jared Staal and Eric O'Dell. It was essentially all Majors after that quick lead as they fired in eight unanswered goals over the three periods to win 8-3. Cizikas lead the way with two goals and four points for the Majors. David Corrente, Devante Smith-Pelly, Stuart Percy, Ryan Lopes, Derek Schoenmakers and William Wallen also scored for Mississauga.
Justin Sefton — his first career Ontario Hockey League goal — tallied the final goal of the game.
"We had a couple of decent periods, but they're a strong hockey club and keep coming," Foligno said. "We made too many mistakes, especially defensively. I felt our defence got weaker as the game went on and made some glaring mistakes. This is where we have to improve. We have to unify, make sure we're playing a lot smarter, a lot more disciplined."
Despite not earning two points in honour of his mom, Marcus Foligno was positive after the game.
"It was a great night and the contributions to the Janis Foligno Foundation is truly inspiring to me and my family," he said. "It shows the kind of good people we have in Sudbury. We can't thank the fans enough."
The night, with all the video tributes to hockey moms, left the players feeling more appreciative for their own mothers.
"It was a special night," Sudbury forward Jared Staal said. "I knew Janis and she was one of the nicest people I've ever met. I'm happy I got the chance to know here. You can't imagine losing your mom. A night like this makes you appreciate your mom a lot more."
The Wolves scratched Eddy Rinke (injury) and Jake Cardwell (mono). Both players are listed as week-to-week.
The three starts of the game were: Casey Cizikas (first), Devante Smith-Pelly (second) and Marcus Foligno (third).