Remembering Emile Francis

Remembering Emile Francis

by February 21, 2022 0 comments

Late in the evening on February 19, the New York Rangers fandom was shocked and saddened by the announcement that Emile Francis had passed away. He was 95, ironically, the same number of games he played as a goaltender in the NHL.

Francis was a goalie who earned the nickname “The Cat” for his quick reflexes. He played for the Chicago Black Hawks and the Rangers in his short NHL career. However, Francis eventually found he was better suited for the front office and worked for the Rangers, the St. Louis Blues, and the Hartford Whalers.

“The New York Rangers and the entire hockey world are saddened to learn of the passing of Emile Francis,” Rangers President and General Manager Chris Drury said. “Emile’s passion and dedication to the Rangers organization and growing the game of hockey in New York City was second to none. ‘The Cat’ was a true pioneer and innovator, as well as the architect and coach of some of the greatest teams in Rangers history. Emile has meant as much to the Rangers as any person who has been part of the organization throughout its history. Our thoughts are with Emile’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

New York Rangers Icon

Francis only played 22 games with the team. Later on, he was hired as an assistant manager and was the general manager from October 30, 1964, to January 6, 1976. Francis served as the Rangers’ head coach for parts of 10 seasons from 1965 to 1975. During that period, he brought the franchise from languishing in nothingness each season to having one of the most successful periods in the franchise’s history.

In his time with the Rangers, they made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in nine consecutive seasons. He was able to guide the team to the Stanley Cup Semifinals in four straight seasons from 1970-74. This also included a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 1971-72. Francis is also responsible for the pairing of Vic Hadfield, Jean Ratelle, and Rod Gilbert, which became known as the ‘G-A-G Line’, or goal a game line. In addition, he was there when the Rangers grabbed players like Ed Giacomin and Brad Park for the roster.

Francis formed the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League in 1966, which gave kids in NYC the opportunity to play hockey. He can also be thanked for organizing clinics and seminars around the city. In addition, Francis is credited with establishing ties between the Rangers and the local youth hockey community that still stand today. As a result, the Rangers created the Emile Francis Award in 2008, given to those who have grown youth hockey around the local community.

Beyond the Rangers

After the Rangers let him go in 1976, St. Louis hired him as the executive vice president, GM, and coach. Francis stepped away from being a full-time coach after the 1976-77 season. However, he did coach twice on an interim basis. Francis would later leave St. Louis and become the president and general manager of the Whalers from 1983-89. In 1988, he would give up the general manager position and eventually retire in 1993.

Contributions and Awards

In 1982 he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a Builder. Also, in 1982, he was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for service to hockey in the United States. In addition, Francis received the Wayne Gretzky International Award from the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015. The award recognizes international individuals who have made significant contributions to the growth and advancement of hockey in the United States.

There was nothing beyond hockey for Francis. He dedicated his entire life to being involved in the sport, one way or another. He even got behind the bench one more time as one of the Rangers coaches for the alumni game against the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

Francis touched so many lives; Rangers hockey won’t be the same without him.

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