The Columbus Blue Jackets captain and his wife discuss his decision to step off the ice last season and why family will always come first.

Within the last year, Nick and Janelle Foligno went through something no parent should ever have to deal with: watching not one, but two of their children fight through serious illness.

Within a five-month period, daughter Milana had a heart valve replaced, and their youngest son, Hudson, was hospitalized in intensive care with pneumonia and a collapsed lung. To boot, son Landon broke his leg in the middle of it all. It was a trying time for the Columbus Blue Jackets captain and his wife.

Fortunately, as of early October, the tide had shifted. “Everyone’s doing great,” Nick says. “We had a really happy and healthy summer, and I feel like everybody recharged,” Janelle adds.

During our visit, you’d never know the children had been so ill. They joined their dad for some hockey on the patio, though Milana politely explains she prefers dancing. They are adorable and well-behaved, periodically coming to ask Mom or Dad a question or request a snack.

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The Folignos are down-to-earth and humble, and if you didn’t know Nick was a second-generation NHL player, you’re not likely to figure it out unless he’s in uniform or being approached by fans for a photo. “I don’t mind, I think because maybe I grew up in it a little bit. People are very respectful,” he says. “From where we started when I got here to where we’ve come, it’s been really great to see that people are just so on board with the Blue Jackets and what we’re building as an organization. And I’m proud to be a part of that.”

In our Winter issue cover story, the Folignos talk about hockey, parenting, their charitable work and how they made it through those five arduous months.  

“It’s amazing, the balancing act and the teamwork that Janelle and I had to have. And I’m so lucky that she was there for me because she’s so strong in those aspects, and while I’m trying to play and do my job as well, it was a lot on her. So it was a pretty unique year,” Nick says.

“It just makes you realize what other families go through. And ours was on a larger scale in some ways, but on such a smaller scale [in others],” Janelle says.

“You realize it can always be worse,” Nick says.