Tough Guy, Marshmallow Heart: Nick Fotiu
Nick Fotiu was a homegrown tough guy. Raised in NYC, a former Golden Gloves boxers, he racked up 1362 PIM in 646 NHL games. Not quite Tiger Williams or Dave Semenko numbers, but he was one of the most feared guys in the game because of his boxing skills. In fact, Dave "The Hammer" Schultz wrote in his autobiography that he was scared of fighting Fotiu.
Although he didn't start skating until he was 15, Fotiu was absolutely dedicated. Quite often, he could be found en route to Skateland in New Hyde Park, a trip that required two buses and two subways.
His dedication paid off, and he split 758 games between the NHL and WHA. He wasn't just dedicated to his on-ice career though:
"Put the fans first. Respect the fans."
That was always one of his mantras. He was beloved for his pre-game ritual of throwing pucks to fans in the blue seats at Madison Square Garden.
One day, he spotted a boy with crutches near the ice before warm-ups, so Fotiu scooped the boy up, and skated him around MSG ice. Five days letter, Fotiu was sitting at his stall when a letter arrived.
When he had scooped this boy up, Fotiu had no clue the extent of the little guy's condition. The boy he had picked up and skated with had written something that reduced the tough guy to tears.
"I'll never be able to walk again, but you were my legs."