NHL alumni find joy in Para hockey

Canadian Paralympic Committee

June 04, 2023

Mike Foligno, Mike Fountain, Scott Walker bring experience, knowledge to Team Canada


MOOSE JAW, Sask. – Mike Foligno and Mike Fountain, two former NHL players, have been assistant coaches with Canada’s Para ice hockey team for the past five years bringing game experience and tactical strategies to the table.

Foligno played fifteen seasons and over 1,000 games in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers. After his playing career, he was also an assistant coach in the NHL and was head coach and GM of the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves in his hometown.

He joined Hockey Canada’s Para hockey program in 2018.

‘’It’s a very rewarding opportunity to be part of this group,’’ said Foligno after a team practice this week at the 2023 World Para Ice Hockey Championships. The tournament concludes Sunday in Moose Jaw with a classic Canada -U.S. final set for 7 p.m. local (9 p.m. ET). It will be broadcast live at hockeycanada.ca.  

‘’Everyone truly cares about the players and allows them to be the best people and players they can be.

‘’For me to come from an NHL background to Para hockey was a big learning curve because the game is played differently. But all the things around it are exactly the same. ‘’

Five years in, Foligno says the decision to join Canada’s Para hockey program has been a life changer.

‘’When I joined, the staff and the players were really receptive,’’ said Foligno. ‘’I think we’ve grown together especially with the players who were new at that time as well.  I was able to pass on my experiences and incorporate what I knew at the NHL level to help all the players become better professionals and just better hockey players.’’

Like Foligno, Fountain was recruited by Marshall Starkman, Hockey Canada’s Operations Manager – Para. Fountain, an energetic 51year-old from Gravenhurst, Ont., was a member of three NHL teams and also played pro in Europe retiring in 2009.

‘’They are great athletes,’’ he said about the Para players. ‘’They play and compete with passion. Many of our players don’t come from a hockey background so there’s that learning curve.

‘’Still the hunger is there, and they want to be pushed. There’re no babies, these guys want to compete and I love that aspect. Some arrive with a blank slate and we throw a lot at them.’’

Obviously, Fountain’s focus is on goaltending. For these worlds, Canada is anchored in nets by three-time Paralympian Dominic Larocque, competing at his seventh worlds and rookie Jean-François Huneault.

‘’I love the way our goalies play and with their type of injuries they can play the classic butterfly style with the crossed leg that cuts angles and allows catching pucks straight on with rebound control.’’

Larocque’s performances this week have been praised in Para hockey circles. At 35, he is keeping the young Canadian team’s hopes for gold alive in this tournament.

‘’I can’t say enough about Dom,’’ said Fountain. ‘’He is more of a quiet leader and he doesn’t have to be the most vocal guy in the room.  He carries himself with that confidence and our guys follow.

‘’We are confident he is going to hold the fort. He never gives up on a puck. He jumps, dives, rolls. He makes difficult plays look easy and that’s a real good confidence builder for our team.’’

In addition to Foligno and Fountain, Scott Walker, who played in the NHL from 1995 to 2010 with four teams, is a development team coach with Hockey Canada’s Para program.

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