Fogolin won pair of Stanley Cups with Oilers

Lee Fogolin Jr. captained the Edmonton Oilers for three seasons and went on to win a pair of Stanley Cups with the organization as part of his 13-year NHL career. Image courtesy Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame

Lee Fogolin Jr., honed his early professional skills with the Buffalo Sabres, it was league expansion that aided him in becoming a bona fide National Hockey League defenceman.

A first round selection by the Sabres in 1974, Fogolin cut his teeth on the Buffalo blueline for five seasons, appearing in 338 games with club.

However in the spring of 1979, the NHL agreed to accept four teams from the rival World Hockey Association, one of which was the Edmonton Oilers, in a merger of sorts.

In a draft of available players to help stock the rosters of those squads, it was Edmonton who it turned out, made one of the shrewdest selections when they tabbed Fogolin with the eighth overall pick, among the four squads, that also featured the Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques and Hartford Whalers.

It can be argued it was Fogolin who went on to have the biggest impact of any of the skaters the Oilers chose.

The same can be said if you included all those picked by each of the four newest NHL franchises at the time.

A stabilizing force on Edmonton’s back-end from the onset, his play and leadership abilities helped foster the youthful Oilers’ line-up that eventually morphed into one of the premier teams in league history.

The workhorse defenceman did not miss a game his first three seasons in the Alberta capital and in his second campaign he went on to be named team captain.

While sporting the ‘C’ on his jersey, Fogolin was pivotal in building the character of the organization and was a major influence in the construction of their foundation, while establishing the work ethic of the club.

After turning over the captaincy to Wayne Gretzky in 1983, he and the Oilers went on to win back-to-back Stanley Cups.

In doing so, he became part of the rare father-son fraternity to both win a NHL championship, joining Lidio (Lee Sr.) who accomplished the feat with the Detroit Red Wings in 1950.

Of the 16 players the Oilers chose in the expansion draft back on June 13, 1979, Fogolin, by far, went on to play the most games for Edmonton, skating in 586 contests for them.

A steady and stalwart defender for the club, he went five full seasons without missing a game and had another where he suited up in all but one.

In total he provided 160 points for the Oilers, including 36 goals and more importantly boasted an impressive plus-minus rating of plus-153.

He was also named an NHL All-Star in 1986 and competed for the Campbell Conference selects in a match-up against the Wales Conference counterparts in a contest held in Hartford. (4-3 Wales OT)

An unsung hero in Edmonton’s rise to an NHL power, the Oilers made a difficult decision to deal him back to Buffalo in 1987, where he wrapped up his career in the league, in an effort to get more ice time for their up and coming D-men that helped them win two more titles.

Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, Fogolin proved to be one of the best overall defencemen who called the region home that competed at the highest level.

His 924 NHL games played are the third-most of any rearguard from the area, trailing only Chris Pronger (1,167) and Marc Staal (1,019) in that category.

Meanwhile his overall plus-minus rating of 181 on the positive side is just two behind Pronger’s plus-183, to help pace the local contingent in that category.

A proven NHL leader on the blueline, who had 239 overall points to his credit, and was never shy to get involved and mix it up, as his 1,318 penalty minutes in the league will attest, Lee Fogolin Jr., is firmly entrenched on the list of top hockey players Thunder Bay has ever produced.