Although he only spent one year at Mansfield High, Erik Foley made an instant impact on the Hornets, leading the team in scoring with 22 goals and 39 points, and helping Mansfield advance to the Div. 2 South final. It was the first sectional final in the program’s history. Despite Foley scoring against Franklin that night at Gallo Arena in Bourne, the Panthers would get the victory and advance to the TD Garden.
It would be the last game Foley would play in Mansfield’s green and white.
Even as a freshman, Mansfield supporters and opponents recognized the potential in his game. It was obvious that, as Franklin coach Chris Spillane said after that final, “Number 6 (Foley) is a player.” His talent took Foley from skating at the Foxboro Sports Center to Tabor Academy, Cedar Rapids of the USHL, Providence College, and to the World Juniors. While he didn’t win a title that night in Bourne, he has since won a gold medal with Team USA.
Now, Foley has taken his career to the ultimate level, as he will forgo his senior season at PC and has signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the St. Louis Blues. He has come a long way from that impressive rookie season in the Hock.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed about saying and you don’t really think of it coming through,” said Foley in a phone call from San Antonio this week. “You think of it as something in the back of your head, but it’s a surreal thing to think about. I’m just truly excited to have that opportunity to say that and hopefully I can make the most of it.”
Foley went to St. Louis for a physical and to meet with the Blues staff before heading to San Antonio to practice with the Rampage, an American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche, on an amateur tryout (ATO). Foley and several other NHL hopefuls are working out and getting their first taste of the professional life with the Blues’ development camp scheduled for June.
“It’s great and the weather is nice,” Foley explained. “I’m not playing or anything, just taking it easy, but it’s nice to be here and get acclimated with the staff.”
He was drafted by Winnipeg in the third round (78th overall) in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, after leading the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders with 27 goals and 27 assists in 55 games during the 2014-15 season. Foley’s rights were traded on Feb. 26 from Winnipeg to St. Louis for NHL veteran Paul Stastny.
Foley, 5-foot-11 winger, is having fun with the fact that he has already been traded before even officially becoming an NHL player. He joked, “When I got traded my agent called me and he said, ‘Did you hear the news?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ He goes ‘Well, welcome to pro hockey.’”
“It was kind of a cool experience being part of a trade for such a big player,” Foley added. “It really put into perspective how much the Blues wanted me and how much they pushed to get me. It was a humbling experience for me.”
When Foley began his hockey career playing in the youth program in Mansfield in junior high, professional hockey was only a pipe dream. “It was a good time,” he said of playing with his classmates and good friends like Evan Kershaw and Will Kelleher. “When you’re that young, you’re just having fun playing the game and you’re not really thinking about if you’re going to play in college or if you’re going pro, you’re just having fun with a good group of guys.”
Even when he started at Mansfield, Foley, who also played for the Neponset Valley River Rats, was more worried about making the varsity team than where the game could take him. As he excelled during his one season with the Hornets, he started talking to Tabor coach Gerry Dineen, who was a friend of the family and whose son Brett had played with Foley. Knowing the coaches would look out for his interests, he saw Tabor as the right fit and looking back now Foley sees it as crucial to his development as a player.
“Tremendously,” he said when asked how much Tabor helped him grow. “It was a hard transition but just living on my own, a higher-paced hockey, the school was tough, you know, it kind of made me grow up a little bit and it kind of showed me as I moved through the levels that I could have a chance to play in college.”
Growing up in Massachusetts with the Hockey East rivalries front and center, Foley always dreamed of playing at the Div. I level. He committed to PC in 2014 but then spent one year in the USHL before heading to the then defending national champions. It took him all of four games to score his first college goal and he would finish with 19 points as a freshman. His sophomore season, Foley totaled 34 points, including a team-high 15 goals.
That season, Foley also had the experience of a lifetime. He joined Team USA for the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Canada and helped the U.S. battle back from 2-0 and 4-2 down in the final against the hosts before winning the gold in a shootout.
“That was a journey and a half,” he said. “I really enjoyed my time there. The tournament was really surreal and winning the tournament was a crazy experience, something that not a lot of people can say they did in their life. I really cherish that experience with those guys.”
It was also a different experience for him on the ice, where he played more of a defensive role on the U.S. fourth line rather than being counted on to be one of the team’s leading scorers.
“It showed me a different way of how a team comes together and different roles can make a team succeed,” he explained. “When I got back to Providence, I took that along with me and I think that just playing at that fast pace and in those crazy environments at the World Juniors helped me a lot.”
Turning pro was always a possibility after this season, but Foley said that he tried not to let it distract from the goal of trying to win a Hockey East title and get the Friars back to the Frozen Four. While PC barely missed out on the semifinals, losing by a goal to Notre Dame in the regional final, Foley had a stellar season. He had career highs with 16 goals and 19 assists and earned an All-Hockey East First Team nod.
After his season came to an end, Foley re-considered the option of playing in the NHL and decided that he was ready to make the leap. He also admitted that he has a lot to work on this summer to prepare himself for the next step.
“This is going to be one of the biggest summers that I’ve had in a long, long time,” he said. “I think that the work is just getting started. It’s nice having a new organization to come in and make a first impression on. I’m going to go into the summer and I’m just going to try to get a spot on the roster and if that doesn’t work out I’ll be in the AHL and that’s fine too.”
He will spend another few days in San Antonio before heading back to Mansfield. He is quick to point out that, although hockey has taken him all across the country (and the continent), he hasn’t lost touch with the guys that he started skating with.
“I love Mansfield,” he said. “I keep in touch with all those guys. Those are my best friends down in Mansfield. We’ve been friends since we were little, and I’d never not be in touch with them.”
While he will enjoy some time at home before embarking on the start of his pro career, Foley is looking forward to the opportunity that is before him.
“I’m excited for it,” he said of June’s development camp for prospects. “I want to get a taste of the pro life before it really starts and I get to go to the main camp. I’m excited to get down there and show them what I can do and excited to see the guys.”