Liam Foudy lived a childhood dream by scoring his first NHL goal on Maple Leafs ice.
But it wasn’t until his Blue Jackets were eliminated by the Lightning the next round in Toronto that he truly felt like a little kid again.
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“It’s funny. I had to carry my bag home after we lost,” the London Knights co-captain quipped Tuesday while reflecting on his first Stanley Cup chase with Columbus.
“After spending some time with the team, my dad came and picked me up right from the hotel at the bubble, drove me home (to Scarborough) and I’ve been here ever since.”
Foudy’s third-period goal in Game 5 of the play-in round was the dagger that ended the Leafs’ season. He doesn’t have it with him because the Blue Jackets are getting it framed for him as a keepsake.
“My stick broke that game so that was garbage and I didn’t keep it,” he said, “but I’ll have the puck and that’s all I really need. It’ll be at my parents’ house in my room and I’ll have that with my (world junior) gold medal — two things I’m really proud of.
“I definitely had some good chances to score before it. I knew I was getting close. I hit the post in Game 4. Toronto had a tough line change and I just threw it no-look. It wasn’t the prettiest, but I’ll take that any day. Growing up a huge Leafs fans and scoring in a deciding game against them will stick with me forever and having their logo on that puck makes it even more special.”
In the aftermath, Columbus head coach John Tortorella said Foudy “had balls” for the way he performed in the series. He finished with a goal and two points in 10 games
“Just to know he has confidence in me was a big boost,” the 20-year-old said. “Every player wants their coach to have trust in them and like the way they play. Dale (Knights coach Dale Hunter) always had trust in me in London and that’s when I play my best. Torts was playing me a lot and put me in big situations and I was trying to learn from the older guys. I had a lot of nerves going into that Toronto series and playing against my hometown team added pressure, but when you’re nervous, it means you care and want to win.
“I had a lot of fun and enjoyed it. It felt good to contribute and it’s something I’ll try to carry into the next camp and try to make the team again.”
The Hunters texted him throughout the series and complimented him on his performance. Five days in, the NHL started running a shuttle every 30 minutes so Foudy rode from Royal York to Hotel X where the Capitals were staying to visit with Connor McMichael.
“We had dinner a few times together,” he said, “but it was different. We got tested (for COVID-19) every day. The swab in the nose wasn’t the best. They took your temperature and you filled out health questions. They want you mostly in your room but we hung out in our team lounge and got to know the rest of the guys well. They made BMO Field available to us so you could watch a game on the JumboTron or play soccer. My mom (France, who ran at the 1984 Olympics) did tell me it was going to be like the Olympic Village with all the other teams there, and it was.
“They really wanted to keep us safe and did a really great job of it while still letting us have some fun.”
Fellow Knights McMichael, Nathan Dunkley and Ryan Merkley stopped by this past weekend for a backyard visit. Foudy plans on taking the next week to relax before building up for another training camp this fall.
“Tortorella’s camps are not the most fun,” he said. “They’re really hard. I want to be ready to play well and make the team. That’s the way I’m approaching it.”
In the meantime, he will be rooting for his brother Jean-Luc of the Windsor Spitfires to be a first-round pick in the NHL’s virtual draft in October. With a little luck, he will land with Columbus, too.
“He’s got interest from a few teams so we’ll see what happens,” Liam said. “That will be fun and I’m staying positive the OHL will start (Dec. 1). He wants to play and I’ll still watch some Knights games. No player wants to sit out for that long.
“I’m hoping they can figure it out and I’m optimistic they will.”