Among the men who helped shape the "Boys on the Bus" Lee Fogolin holds a special place in Oilers history. No one was tougher than Fogolin, no one bled more than Fogolin in the name of the copper and blue, and when the time came, no one could imagine the class and grace displayed by Fogolin when he passed the mantle.
BEFORE THE DRAFT
PRE-DRAFT AWARDS AND HONORS
Oshawa Captain: 1972-73 and 1973-74 seasons
Fogolin was the first US born player to be chosen in the first round of the draft, going 11th overall to Buffalo in 1974. (courtesy hockeydraftcentral)
Lee Fogolin was a heart and soul defender: rugged, an expert shot blocker and effective down low and against the wall. He was strong–at 6.00, 200 pounds he did not tower over opponents but routinely won battles against bigger men–and had a high pain threshold (more later). He was a solid PK player, at times playing forward 4×5 in Buffalo.
The story of Fogolin’s arrival in Edmonton via the 1979 expansion draft had a lot to do with a changing of the guard in Buffalo. Incoming GM and Coach Scott Bowman had just arrived from coaching the Montreal Canadiens and was aghast when he found out Fogolin was not protected.
Lee Fogolin was tough–holy hell, he was tough. Here’s a quick video of Fogolin taking on 6.03 210 Paul Holmgren:
- 2 Stanley Cup Wins (1984, 1985)
- tied NHL record for most shorthanded goals, one season (4 in 1980-81)
- Played in the first 273 games in Oiler NHL history
- Gave up his captaincy to Wayne Gretzky on the eve of the 1983-84 season, saying he felt it might help the team win the Stanley Cup
- Meals on Wheels spokesperson in Edmonton during playing career
- Appeared in the 1986 All-Star Game
Fogolin formed a strong defense pairing with Kevin Lowe (and some with Poul Popiel and Colin Campbell that first season) during his Oiler years. He defended his turf and his teammates and never backed down from a fight. Fogolin’s willingness to sacrifice his body was legendary and took its toll over his years in Edmonton. From 1979-80 through his final Edmonton season (1986-87) fans could see him lose a step and eventually lose playing time to the up and comers. By the time he was dealt, Edmonton had a plethora of young defensemen with NHL experience and another bunch on the way in Steve Smith, Jeff Beukeboom and Geoff Smith.
The reputation for honest, tough and rugged defense for the Oilers came out of the Lee Fogolin era. Men like Jason Smith and Steve Staios carried on the tradition, each of them winning the hearts of the fans with tremendous effort and abandon. In many ways, Lee Fogolin’s style perfectly suited the working class city of Edmonton during the 1980’s. Lee Fogolin was beloved in this city, still is.
- Kevin Lowe: “I was fortunate to have Lee Fogolin look after me when I first came into the league, he was my defence partner and he really was a great role model."
Number two is Lee Fogolin, the brawny, word-working defenseman. Fogolin is as strong as he appears, and every day after practice he works with weights. He was born in Chicago, where his father–also Lee–was a hockey player, but he spent most of his youth in Northern Ontario. Lee the son–universally Fogie–is a devout Catholic and a family man, and the most dedicated hockey player on the team.
One night last season, he awoke in Hartford, Connecticutt with a screaming toothache. He called long distance to his sister-in-law, a dental hygienist. "Wait til morning," she said. "I can’t," said Fogolin. "I have to play tomorrow."
Then he went to his hotel room closet, dismantled a coat-hanger, made a small hook and ripped the cap off his offending molar. In the game the next night, he beat up Hartford’s Warren Miller, whose errant stick had cut him for six stitches–outside the mouth.
Note: Fogolin would be named captain later in the season.