The family Foegele stood patiently, if excitedly, outside the Carolina Hurricanes locker room Monday night at PNC Arena, waiting for the star of the game.
Waiting for Warren Foegele.
George Foegele reminisced a little about his son, about the way Warren used to chase after his older brother, Reese.
“Having a big brother is always a motivator,” George Foegele said, smiling. “Warren was always the runt, in the corners, getting smacked around. So he’s learned his trade well.”
Warren Foegele no longer is a runt and no longer gets smacked around. In the Canes’ game Monday against the Ottawa Senators, in his NHL debut, the 6-2, 190-pound forward came bolting out of the corner in the offensive zone with the puck late in the first period and buried his first NHL shot for his first NHL goal.
Later, Foegele came swiftly skating down the slot and unloaded a shot that goalie Craig Anderson stopped but couldn’t control, and the Canes’ Valentin Zykov was there to smack it in. Foegele had his first NHL assist and he also finished with five hits.
After the Canes’ 4-1 win, Foegele was named the game's first star and sitting at the bench doing the postgame interview. Then it was back to the locker room to face the media gathered around his locker stall.
“I was a little nervous out there,” Foegele said. “It took me until the third shift to realize it was just another hockey game.”
Not for the family. This was huge. This was a keeper, a moment to remember forever.
Even with a team flight to catch to New Jersey, where the Canes play the Devils on Tuesday, Foegele was one of the last to leave the locker room. His dad, mother Leslie, Reese and Warren’s girlfriend, Alexandra, watched as player after player came strolling by.
Finally, there he was. Let the hugs begin.
George Foegele said he “played travel agent” for three and a half hours Sunday lining up the flight from Toronto to Raleigh and then a hotel. That came after Warren made the call home, informing his parents he had been recalled by the Hurricanes from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL and would be in the lineup Monday.
In the NHL. In his first professional season.
“He’s got to be thrilled,” Leslie Foegele said. “He’s been chomping at the bit. He wanted to get a callup for a long time, so he’s just … He’s over the moon, I’m sure.”
Settled in at PNC Arena, the Foegeles were thrilled when Warren slipped on to the ice for his first shift about 90 seconds into the game, playing on a line with center Derek Ryan and winger Joakim Nordstrom. Late in the period came the goal, the winger skating past Sens defenseman Ben Harpur to snap off his shot.
“That’s his style of play,” George said.
Foegele has scored 26 goals for the Checkers this season and done it without any power-play time. He has eight game-winning goals and four shorthanded scores for a team headed to the AHL playoffs.
Reese Foegele, two years older than Warren, once played hockey, too. Reese finally settled on lacrosse as his sport and recently finished his career at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.
“I hung up my skates a while ago,” he said.
For Warren, it was all about hockey. George said as a 12-year-old, Warren was on a team with Connor McDavid — now the megastar of the Edmonton Oilers — coached by McDavid’s father. Continuing to grow and develop, Warren was taken by Carolina in the third round of the 2014 NHL Draft, spending a year at the University of New Hampshire, where Canes defenseman Brett Pesce was a teammate, before going to the Ontario Hockey League.
Traded by the Kingston Frontenacs to the Erie Otters in January 2017, Foegele teamed with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome to lead the Otters to the OHL championship. Erie advanced to the championship game of the 2017 Memorial Cup before a 4-3 loss to the Windsor Spitfires — Foegele had a goal and six shots for the Otters in the game.
It was on to Charlotte this year, then finally to the Canes for his debut.
“I’m sure he’ll have lots of energy,” Canes coach Bill Peters said before the game. “Hopefully he’ll get the butterflies all going in the same direction and play well.”
Foegele did that. Then it was family time.
“They’ve been through so much in supporting me,” he said. “It’s just great they could be here for the journey.”