Nick Foligno and his family have a history in Boston. And now they have a future.
The 33-year-old forward signed a two-year, $7.6 million contract (average annual value $3.8 million) with the Boston Bruins on Wednesday. It was a chance for Foligno to revisit a place that helped make him and his family whole, after his daughter, Milana, had heart surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital in November 2013.
“Boston has a very special place in our heart because of that,” Foligno said. “It was, my wife said, serendipitous in a way, coming back to a place that gave us a chance to be a family in the first place. So we’re really looking forward to that bond already that’s created because of it. We love the doctors and the people in that hospital. We’re looking forward to now playing in front of them, having them cheer us on.”
[RELATED: Foligno signs contract with Bruins]
Milana Foligno was born with a congenital heart condition that necessitated surgery to insert an expandable stent when she was 3 weeks old. She was diagnosed at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where Foligno then played for the Columbus Blue Jackets, and then had her surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital. It was a place that, as Foligno has said, gave him his family.
Milana has had follow-up procedures on her heart, including after she was diagnosed in November 2018 with endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart’s inner lining, which led to valve replacement surgery. The Folignos have documented their – and Milana’s – journey at @theheartsplaybook on Instagram.
Foligno and his wife, Janelle, have given back to each hospital, splitting a $1 million donation equally between the two in 2016.
“I think they were secretly cheering me on from afar, but now they’ll really have a reason to cheer for me, which will be great,” Foligno said of the doctors at Boston Children’s. “And probably even more so to see how well Milana is doing for them, to see her on a more day-to-day basis, will be really special. We’re pretty excited about being back in Boston for that reason.”
When Foligno signed his new contract with the Bruins, he was at his summer home in Canada. Milana, now 7, was “having a blast,” he said, spending her time on the lake, just being a normal kid.
“She’s doing great,” he said. “A big thank you to Boston Children’s and, obviously, Nationwide Children’s in Columbus for allowing us to have a healthy daughter.”
Foligno said Wednesday he has long appreciated as an opponent the way the Bruins play, first with the Ottawa Senators for five seasons, then with the Blue Jackets for nine, where he was named captain. He finished last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs after being traded on April 11.
Foligno scored 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in 49 games last season, and has scored 486 points (203 goals, 283 assists) in 957 NHL games. He has scored 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in 55 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
“Playing against them all these years, they’re a team that I’ve admired from afar,” he said. “Their culture, their structure. They’re always in the thick of it. They’re always a team that seems to have a chance to win on any given night and also in the postseason.”
The way they play, the opportunity they could afford him, combined with a conversation with Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron, sealed it for Foligno.
“I just feel like this is the right fit for me and my family,” Foligno said. “Ultimately I’m a dad [with] a family of three kids, and I want them to be just as comfortable. Because a lot of times, how they feel off the ice makes me play that much better on it.
“And I think that’s why I chose Boston.”