ST. PAUL — Wild winger Marcus Foligno has made his living in the NHL as the ultimate hype man.
Unafraid of even the most menacing opponents, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound bruiser relishes the opportunity to pick his team up with a crushing blow to an opposing skater.
He lives for those moments, and with it, the reaction of the 20,000 fans in attendance. That obviously won’t be the case when the NHL restarts in a couple of weeks. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause concern worldwide, the entire postseason will be played without fans in attendance.
Not exactly ideal for a guy like Foligno who feeds off emotion.
“That’s going to be the adjustment right away,” he said. “Honestly, I think the team that can get over it the fastest will have the most success.”
Instead of the crowd going crazy after a big hit in the neutral zone — something Foligno says he enjoys as much as scoring a goal — the reaction will be reduced to nothing more than teammates stick-tapping from the bench.
That is something the Wild are well aware of heading into their qualifying series against the Vancouver Canucks, starting Aug. 2 in Edmonton. They know in order to have success they are going to have to feed off each other more than ever before.
“You’re going to hit someone and won’t get that boost from the crowd,” Foligno said. “You’re just going to have to get right back in the play.”
That said, Foligno intends to play with his usual reckless abandon when the puck drops. He knows his style yields positive results for the Wild despite of no fans being in the building.
“I know my role,” he said. “I know what I need to do in order for our team to be successful, and if I waver a little bit, it’s not going to help my team. That’s the biggest thing when we talk about mental toughness. Just knowing that if there’s a big hit, and hopefully it’s me making it, or a big play, or something like that, and we don’t get the reaction we usually get, we have to put our heads down and work harder and realize that this is the new norm for now.”
There’s something exciting about that, too, as Foligno might actually have to bring more energy to keep things rolling.
“We always talk about the playoffs momentum swings and things like that,” he said. “We are going to to have to our own energy out there. There’s no one in the stands to cheer for us after a big save or a big goal or a big hit. It’s going to be the team that has to rally around what has happened on the ice to push each other.”
Perhaps this will be the ultimate test for the ultimate hype man.