Foligno and Johansen are humble ambassadors

Team Foligno center Ryan Johansen celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal in the 2015 NHL All Star Game at Nationwide Arena. 

Russell LaBounty/Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sport

Columbus, Ohio – Another NHL All-Star weekend has come to a close and there are two guys that are still the same humble players they were four days ago.

Blue Jackets’ left wing Nick Foligno, captain of Team Foligno, and center Ryan Johansen, MVP of the All-Star Game, were all smiles when it was all said and done. Both were first-time all-stars, and yet you have to think this won’t be their last.

"My first time being an All-Star," said Foligno, "first time really around these guys, you just want to, to be honest with you, fly under the radar and just kind of feel it out as you go.  I enjoyed it, I really do.  I thought it was a lot of fun, and then I just decided, you know what, I’m going to embrace this.  I’m in my home city.  I had Joey to really help me out, too, to get me some normalcy because I’m around him all the time, so it felt good just to have him around."

The stars aligned to have both Foligno and Johansen selected for the All-Star weekend when both are also having very good seasons despite the team not doing as well as expected. The former embraced the spotlight that came with being the captain on an all-star team. The latter melted the hearts of thousands during the Skills Competition and earned MVP honors Sunday.

"You know, it was good, though," continued Foligno. "I really enjoyed every minute.  I can’t tell you how humbled I am and so excited to be around everybody and really had a blast with it all, and it’s something I’ll never forget, and I’m glad people told me to really soak it in, because it is, it’s a great experience, and I’m going to have stories forever from this weekend for sure."

Having the event in Columbus added an extra layer of specialness to the weekend that not many players get to experience. Not only playing in their first game, but playing in front of a very partisan crowd was not lost on the guys.

"You know, it’s meant a lot, us being a part of it," said Johansen. "That’s all we’ve been talking about over the last few days is seeing the fans and how much they’ve been enjoying all the festivities and stuff and we did a two-hour signing (Sunday) at the convention center up there, and everybody just seemed to be having a great time, and all the kids were laughing and smiling and having fun.  So it’s just been a great thing to see these last few days."

Could there have been two better ambassadors to represent not only the team, but also the city? Both of these players are faces of the franchise, and will be for quite some time moving forward.

"We’re so proud of our city for showing that hockey is such a big deal here," Foligno said. "For it to be the main focus and then for us to have been involved in it has been really gratifying for both of us.

"It’s allowed us to get out in our community a little more than we’ve been able to and really thank the fans for all their support for us, and like he said, you see the kids, that was my favorite part, the red carpet yesterday, and then the two-hour signing that we did today, the kids looked like they were having a ball, and that’s what we remember as kids, so it was really fun to kind of have that as our moment today."

Columbus shines

This All-Star Weekend exposed a much wider audience to the beauty of Columbus as a hockey town. Were some minds changed about the way they viewed Columbus? Of course they were. There were many comments overheard about how great everything was about the entire event and all that the city did to show the hockey world a good time.

"You know what?" said Foligno. "It was fun to take on the role of showing off our team and our city.  That was what I was proud of. I signed here and when you make that kind of a commitment for that long of a time you’re proud of what you’ve accomplished and the team that you play for, and I wanted the guys to see that. I wanted them to see the city, and all the comments that came from the guys, they love it here. They really were impressed with how nice Columbus is."

What will this mean moving forward? Only time will tell. But one thing is for certain, and that is that the city and these two Blue Jackets players gave a good accounting of themselves.

"That was probably the role I wanted to make sure I got across to everybody," concluded Foligno, "is how great of a city it is to play here and I think the fans took over and did the rest."