Nolan Foote is excited to join a Tampa Bay Lightning roster that boasts plenty of talent, including the 18-year-old former Thunderbirds forward and his older brother, Cal. Photo courtesy of Scott Audette, Tampa Bay Lightning
Nolan Foote prepares for life in professional hockey the way most players do, spending his summer training, skating … and playing golf.
It is, after all, the life he’s been dreaming about. The life he’s been pursuing and grinding at since he was a kid. Yes, even the golf part.
Foote, taken by the Tampa Bay Lightning with the 27th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, has always been a competitor — a trait that carries over to the links. This summer, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound forward who inked an entry-level contract with the Lightning, joined older brother Cal on the golf course for some family competition.
“You definitely try to get in each other’s heads,” the younger Foote said. “We’ll give it to each other — that just makes it fun. We both want to beat each other.”
Entering training camp, the Foote brothers — sons of two-time Stanley Cup champion Adam Foote — can put aside trying to beat each other in 18 holes. Cal, who Tampa Bay took at No. 14 overall in the 2017 NHL Draft, played for the Lightning’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch last year, and will be competing against Nolan for a spot on another stacked Lightning team that doesn’t appear to be weakening any time soon.
Asked what it means to join a professional program already built for success, Nolan Foote said: “It’s exciting. They have a lot of really good prospects, and they’re really good now.”
"Colorado is definitely becoming a better hockey state."
“(The Thunderbirds) are right up there, competing with Chicago and Detroit,” Foote said. “It’s awesome.
“Colorado is definitely becoming a better hockey state,” he added.
It also made helped set the development stage in Foote’s game: Traveling. Tournaments. Acting like a professional hockey player. They were all little steps that helped prepare him for where he is now.
Tier 1 hockey requires a lot of time on the road and requires players to build relationships with teammates, Foote said, while also helping players develop skills that they need to compete at a high level. That’s where Foote the competitor transformed into Foote the leader.
In 2014-15, Foote was named assistant captain of the Thunderbirds U14 team. Later, during his time in the WHL, the leadership recognized by the Thunderbirds’ brass carried itself onto the ice.
“He’s a lead-by-example player on the ice,” said Leif Mattson, Foote’s linemate their final season together in Kelowna. “He’s not the most vocal guy [but] he can be a game-changer and lead in that way.”
In 168 games in the WHL, Foote notched 138 points, including a 36-goal season last year. As a dual citizen, Foote represented the gold medal-winning Canadians in the 2017-18 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
With summer now in the books, Foote can turn his full attention to professional hockey. It is, after all, what he wants to do. It’s what he’s been surrounded by most his life.
“My parents always told us that we could do anything, we didn’t have to play hockey, but my brother and I both really love the game,” he said.
Asked what he’d be doing if he wasn’t playing hockey, Foote responded with an obvious answer.
“Playing golf,” he said.