Fogolin excelled as player and coach

Bee Hive Hockey Card images courtesy Hilary Kaszor

list of those from the Lakehead who have achieved success in the game remains storied.

One such individual, who is deservedly on the scroll of standouts from the city is Lidio (Lee) Fogolin, a former National Hockey League defenceman and later, a very successful coach locally.

Recruited as a 16-year-old to play junior in Galt, Ont., now Cambridge, Fogolin packed his bags and headed to southern Ontario in the fall of 1943, during the throes of World War II.

Initially a member of the team, dubbed the Gist Canadians, they were eventually sponsored by the Detroit Red Wings and thus became the Galt Red Wings, a development and feeder program for the NHL club.

In his second year with the squad, Fogolin’s side advanced all the way to the Ontario Hockey Association finals, but they were bounced by the OHA and Memorial Cup-winning Toronto St. Michael’s Majors.

In 67 career games there, he had 16 goals and 34 assists to his credit, was once named the team’s top defenceman as well as a league all-star, which helped him earn a pro contract with Detroit.

That deal saw him spend time with the Omaha Knights (USHL) in 1946-47 as well as the Indianapolis Capitals (1947-49).

Fogolin made his NHL debut in 1948 as a playoff call-up where he dressed twice and picked up an assist.

Eventually joining the Red Wings for good the following season, the blueliner, renowned for being a tremendous shot blocker, helped Detroit win the Stanley Cup in 1950, defeating fellow local icons Edgar Laprade and Pentti Lund in a final series that went the distance before the Red Wings took a Game 7 thriller, 4-3, in double overtime.

He was then on the squad that met the league’s best in the 1950 NHL All-Star Game, that was won by Detroit 7-1.

Dealt to Chicago later that season he went on to spend six years with the Blackhawks and earned his second all-star nod in 1951 on one of the NHL select squads, who battled to a 2-2 draw.

Also playing in that match-up, held at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, were other locals, Gus Bodnar and Gaye Stewart, along with Kenora’s Don Raleigh.

After a 427-game run in the NHL, that included 10 tallies, 48 assists and 575 penalty minutes, Fogolin concluded his professional playing days as a player-coach with the Calgary Stampeders of the old Western Hockey League for one year before returning home to settle down.

This included running a prominent gas station and garage on Hodder Ave., in Current River, where he raised his son, Lee Jr., who himself went on to a prolific NHL career, that included captaining the Edmonton Oilers and being part of two Stanley Cup-winning teams there.

The elder Fogolin had a knack to coaching and went on to guide the fabled Port Arthur Bearcats senior side.

While behind the bench he guided the Bearcats to multiple Thunder Bay Senior Hockey League crowns.

He also led Port Arthur to the Ahearne Cup in 1962 where they captured the European title by defeating Swedish side Djurgårdens, 5-3 in the championship game held in Stockholm, in front of over a reported throng of 20,000 spectators.

Not done with coaching, he returned to take over the Thunder Bay Twins in 1971.

Over the course of the three years there he guided that famed senior squad to back-to-back-to-back United States Hockey League titles in 1972, ’73 and ’74.

He then turned the reigns over to Dave Siciliano, who as player-coach, steered the Twins to a fourth-straight USHL crown and an Allan Cup Canadian senior championship in 1975.

Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1988, Lee Fogolin Sr., certainly did his part in etching his name firmly into local hockey lore.