FullTilt Legends: Nick Fotiu
What makes a hockey player a fan favorite? Is it the blistering slapshot? Is it a player who has the flair for the dramatic? Is it the goalie that makes one spectacular save after another? Another way to become a fan favorite and be forever etched into the minds, hearts and souls of team’s fans is the player who stands up for his teammates.
The player who plays with heart and soul, who never says die no matter what the score. It is the player who is willing to take on an opponent who is much bigger and maybe more skilled. It is someone who is more talented with his fists than his hands. It is someone who against all odds made the team and in all likelihood was only here a short time due to the sometimes violent nature of the position.
In years gone by, that player was referred to at times as a goon, an enforcer or a bodyguard. But in the minds of Blueshirt fans, that player was a RANGER. The Rangers have had a long history of players who could drop the gloves – Ed Hospodar, George McPhee (Yes, the former Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks GM!), Barry Beck, Nick Kypreos, Jeff Beukeboom, Kris King, Brandon Prust, Chris Simon, Daniel Carcillo, Darren Langdon & Colton Orr to name a few. Three of the best at doing this in the history of the Rangers are were Nick Fotiu, Joey Kocur & Tie Domi.
The FullTilt Legend Series is back as over the next three weeks we take a look at 3 of the toughest Rangers in Blueshirt history.
Nick Fotiu was born in Staten Island on May 25, 1952. Fotiu actually made his professional hockey debut with the New England Whalers in the WHA during the 1974-75 season. However, it was during the 1976-77 season where Fotiu realized his boyhood dream to play for his hometown team when he was signed as a free agent on July 23, 1976 thus becoming the first Ranger to hail from Staten Island.
As a young child, Fotiu would attend Ranger games and sit up in the “blue seats” as those were the least expensive and what he could afford. Fotiu never forgot where he came from either. It was during his rookie season with the Rangers where after pre-game warm-ups it was not uncommon to see Fotiu launch several pucks to the upper reaches of the Garden so the fans up there could get a souvenir that they would not get during game action. I myself was fortunate enough to get two of these mementos on two separate occasions while he played for the Rangers.
Fans loved Fotiu’s all out style whether it was his skating full speed (who needed to know how to stop? Isn’t that what the boards were for?), his crunching hits or when he dropped the gloves and took care of business. Fotiu was all heart; all the time!
Fotiu learned to fight as a Golden Glove boxer growing up and his skills as a pugilist were well known throughout NHL circles. Other players knew that if they were to drop the gloves while he was on the ice, there was a good chance they would be on the receiving end of one of his punches. That alone stopped some opponents from taking liberties with some of Fotiu’s smaller less inclined physical teammates.
Fotiu furthered his dream of not only playing for the Rangers but he also got the chance to reach the Stanley cup Finals with the Rangers. He was a part of the 1978-79 team that upset the highly favored New York Islanders to reach the Stanley Cup Finals against the Montreal Canadiens.
One of the more memorable pictures after the Rangers defeated the Islanders was that of Fotiu jumping over the boards in street clothes (he was a healthy scratch) to join in the celebration on the ice. Fotiu did appear in 4 games for the Rangers in the playoffs during that memorable run in the spring of 1979. He didn’t tally any points but had 6 PIM. The dream didn’t last long though as Fotiu was claimed by the Hartford Whalers in the 1979 -80 Expansion Draft on June 13, 1979.
He would return to the Rangers on Jan 15, 1981 when Hartford traded him back for a 5th round draft pick. In parts of 8 seasons with the Rangers he would appear in 455 games notching 41G & 62A for 103 points and also accumulated 970 PIM.
In the playoffs he played in 24 games and had 3 assists with 27 PIM. Fotiu last played for the Rangers during the 1984-85 season. On March 11, 1986 he was traded to the Calgary Flames for future considerations. While in Calgary, he became an instrumental part of their run to the Stanley Cup Final against the Montreal Canadiens. He would spend another year in Calgary before going on to the Philadelphia Flyers for one season. He would play one game for the Edmonton Oilers in the 1988-89 season before he would retire from the NHL
in 1990. For his NHL career he amassed 1362 PIM in 646 games with 60G & 77A. In 38 playoff games he had 67 PIM with 4 assists.
After he retired he gravitated back to the Rangers organization and served as a member of the organization in various roles ranging from scout, assistant coach & team ambassador.