NATION PROFILE: LEE FOGOLIN

 

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 

Last Team: Oshawa (OMJHL)                            
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois (USA)
Hometown: Thunder Bay, Ontario
   
PRE-DRAFT STATISTICS
Year Team League GP G A TP PIM
1970-71 Thunder Bay TBJHL
1971-72 Thunder Bay TBJHL
1972-73 Oshawa OMJHL 55 5 21 26 132
1973-74 Oshawa OMJHL 47 7 19 26 108

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)

EARLY CAREER

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:  

MEMORABLE MOMENTS

  • 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 

TRADE

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. 

LEGACY

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."

 

GZOWSKI

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.

STATS

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Great article. Fogolin was the definition of toughness and character,and he was acquired in large part as a model for the up-and-coming superstars. Anyone who saw the Oil back then knows that, and yet, he still remains under-appreciated to this day in my estimation.

    “Slow news day” should check out what Gretzky, Messier, Lowe and others said about Fogolin. He taught all of them about toughness, leadership, and dedication.

    Always loved Fogolin. I’d love to see him get way more recognition from the Oilers. Classy, character guy.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Surprised no one mentions Fogeys FOREARMS !!

    Bigger than most guys calves… so i hear…Dont even go there !! lol

    He was a great carpenter if i remember…huge arms.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Another note and a sad one at that. I remember when Lee’s son died at a young age. It was a tragic incident. Michael went to the same highschool as me but I was a year younger. I didn’t know him well but the outpouring of grief was tremendous. A sad day for hockey in edmonton, his family and friends.

  • Spydyr

    I was unbelievably lucky in the 80’s, my next door neighbors were the Fogolin family, and nicer people you won’t ever meet. I was the fortunate recipient of so many free tickets to watch those 80’s Oilers, I shoveled their driveway for Carol when the team was on the road, to earn my tix.

    And my greatest story as an Oiler fan is the fact that the Stanley Cup was in our house the night they won it for the first time. Lee was so thrilled that his name would be going on the Cup, especially given the fact that he and his Dad would become the first Father/Son combo on the Cup made it even more special.

    I always thought the fact that he had the Cup that night spoke very loudly of what everyone on the team thought of Fogey.

    And for the guy who made the ‘slow news’ day comment, bad form. Without Fogey, the road to greatness for guys like Lowe, Gretz et al would have been much tougher.

    The fact that Fogolin’s name has always been prominently displayed on the banner of Oilersnation has always made me proud! Makes me happy that the guys that run this fine website ‘get it’, even if some of the posters do not.

    • Spydyr

      I’m guessing your too young to have seen him play.

      Either that or you don’t understand what it takes to win in the NHL.

      Fogolin was a warrior who made every other player on his team a little bit better.

      He has class.The players of this age could learn a lot from him.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Fogey use to give me sticks when i was younger. Weirdest stick one could imagine, very little heel on those sticks. Shot right myself so i always used the right handed ones….. Bossys, Lafluers and Dave Brown sticks were the best.

    Rarely see Lee smile like he is in that top picture anymore after the loss of his son a few yrs ago. Always thought Lee had the best looking wife on the team. Pat Hughes had a beautiful one as well.

    One memory i have of Fogeys play was one night when Ciccerelli had gotten under the Oilers skin, saw him fire a puck at Kevin Lowes head narrowly missing him by less than a foot just as the 2nd period ended. Early in the third period, Lee ended his evening with a two hander across Ciccerellis forearm, breaking it. Dino always seemed to be much more mild manored after when playing against the Oilers after that.

  • vetinari

    Fogolin. Steve Smith. Beukeboom. Those were friggin’ warriors. The Battles of Alberta were intense back then and more like wars when the teams clashed.

    I remember a game when the Oil were down a couple of goals early to the Jets and Fogolin took it upon himself to singlehandedly manhandle and wrestle anyone within 10 feet of the goal for the next 45 minutes. He was fantastic and I remember the boys coming back for the win (I don’t know the actual score but for some reson, I think it was one of those 7-5 or 8-7 wins from the ’80s).

  • Fogolin was before my time. I was 4 when he finished in the NHL. Articles like these are all I have to understand the kind of player that he is.

    My old man was never much of a story teller even though he had stories to tell. I must say that reading this series has often made me wish I had asked him about these players before he passed away.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Wow, that 80-81 year really stands out. 13 goals, more than double his next best season.

    That coat-hanger story is as amazing as it is disturbing! I wonder if he was able to get back to sleep after that… probably not without a few tumblers.

  • Rob...

    I remember a game where Lee Fogolin leveled a guy near center ice. This normally wouldn’t have been out of place, except the puck was at one end of the ice, as was most of the play. He took a penalty for it, but he managed to shake up the other team and rally his own in the process. It was awesome.

    I wish I could remember the team they were playing, or better yet, find the clip on youtube.