Last season brought a new perspective to both parenting and hockey for the Columbus Blue Jackets captain.

On the ice, Nick Foligno leads and motivates the Columbus Blue Jackets as the team captain. At home, he has an even more important job: dad.

Those priorities were crystal clear last season, when Foligno stepped away from the game after two of his children became seriously ill. It’s a situation that doesn’t happen often in pro sports. But it was a decision every parent could relate to, and one for which his team and fans showed unwavering support.

Watching the Folignos’ three young children play hockey in the backyard of their Upper Arlington home, you’d never suspect two of them had been so sick. But the 2018-19 season was a rough one for Nick and his wife, Janelle.

First, daughter Milana was diagnosed in November with endocarditis. After six weeks of IV antibiotics, she underwent valve replacement surgery. Milana, now 6, was born with a congenital heart issue that required a valve replacement when she was just 3 weeks old. “We knew there was always the possibility, the risk I should say, that that valve could get infected because it’s a foreign object in her body,” Janelle says. “We hoped it wouldn’t happen, but that nightmare happened.”

Milana spent about two weeks at Boston Children’s Hospital, where she’d had her first surgery. Shortly thereafter, in mid-January, the Folignos’ oldest son, Landon, now 4, broke his leg. Then in March, Hudson, now 2, got pneumonia and spent five days at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Shortly after Landon got his full-leg cast off, Hudson got sick again and spent more than three weeks in the ICU. That time, he had a collapsed lung and needed to be put on a ventilator. It was a harrowing five months.

Foligno stepped off the ice for a game in November, four games around the new year and a March road trip. “You feel a responsibility that you want to be in both places. ... But I needed to be home. I needed to be around my family. That’s the most important thing in my life is my wife and my kids,” he says.

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