Like father, like son is a phrase that fits Lee Fogolin Sr. and Jr. perfectly.
Although they played in very different eras, they played an almost similar style. Both were hard hitting defensemen who made up what they lacked in grace with an abundance of heart and leadership. Both were journeymen who specialized in the physical game and were excellent shot blockers. Poise and dedication were also commonly mentioned attributes of both player's games. Father Lee played in the rough and tumble post-World War II era with the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. Lee Jr. played during the high scoring, and high flying 1980s.
Lee Jr. was born in Chicago where his father spent most of his career, but grew up in rural Ontario. By 1972 he was skating for the junior Oshawa Generals and capturing critical acclaim for his exuberant play. By the time he became draft eligible in 1974, he was a top selection of the Buffalo Sabres as he was selected 11th overall.
Lee made the jump to the NHL immediately. He played somewhat sparingly, however, over his first two NHL season because of his lack of experience. Even at that early age he was considered to be the strongest man in professional hockey.
While Lee was too good to play in the minors, ultimately he was rushed into the Sabres lineup. He got caught up in the Sabres blue line depth chart and often saw little ice time and even skated as a penalty killing forward. After 5 seasons in Buffalo he was surprisingly left exposed by the Sabres in the 1979 expansion draft, and was quickly snapped up by the Edmonton Oilers.
It is in Edmonton where Lee is perhaps best remembered. He served as a team captain before handing that honour to Wayne Gretzky. He would quickly establish himself as one of the league's best defensive defensemen and most unheralded players while playing the run-and-gun Oilers team. One of the reasons the Oilers could play that all-offense system of theirs was because of players like Lee who would stay back and do the dirty work.
Lee enjoyed 8 seasons in Edmonton, including 2 Stanley Cups. Ultimately the emergence of young behemoths like Steve Smith and Jeff Beukeboom made a veteran Fogolin expendable in 1987. He was traded back to Buffalo late in the season. He would put in just 9 more games of NHL work before deciding to retire at the end of the season.
Lee Fogolin played in 24 regular season NHL games, scoring 44 goals and 239 points plus 1318 penalty minutes. In 108 playoff contests he scored 5 goals and 24 points plus 173 penalty minutes. But every player who ever played with (or for that matter against) Lee Fogolin will agree that no statistic could ever measure the value of this rock-steady defenseman.
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