Ronald Michael Francis, Jr. (born March 1, 1963) is a retired Canadian professional ice hockey centre who played 25 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Hartford Whalers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs. He now serves as the director of hockey operations for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Francis was drafted by the Hartford Whalers in round 1 (fourth overall) of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft. He was a model of consistency and durability, averaging more than a point a game in over 1700 games in 23 seasons, and (not counting the lockout-shortened 1994–95 season) averaging just under 77 games played a season. His three Lady Byng Trophies attest to his gentlemanly conduct on and off the ice. Francis stands second all-time in careerassists behind Wayne Gretzky with 1,249, fourth in career points (1,798), third in games played (1,731), and twenty-first in career goals (549).
Francis played almost ten seasons with the Whalers, serving as captain for almost six and setting nearly every offensive record in franchise history. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 4, 1991 with Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings, in exchange for Jeff Parker, Zarley Zalapski, and John Cullen. The trade became a coup for Pittsburgh, where he centred a formidable second line behind Mario Lemieux, as the Penguins won their first Stanley Cup less than three months later. Francis was indispensable the following year, as Pittsburgh repeated as champions, in leading the team during the absence of Lemieux in the 1992 playoffs – and in scoring the Cup-clinching goal against the Chicago Blackhawks. At the same time, it is considered to be one of the most one-sided trades in NHL history (though The Hockey News suggested that Hartford had gotten the better end of the trade at the time),;the players Hartford acquired never approached the numbers or impact Francis produced there or with Pittsburgh. Francis would spend seven seasons in Pittsburgh, captaining the team twice, and becoming the first Penguin to win the Selke Trophy in 1995.
Francis returned to his original organization as a free agent for 1998–99, signing with the Carolina Hurricanes (who had moved from Hartford the previous season). He spent the next 5.5 seasons padding his franchise records. He still ranks first all-time in Whalers/Hurricanes history in points, goals, assists and games played; his 1,175 points with the franchise are double that of the runner-up, Kevin Dineen. He captained the Hurricanes to a surprise appearance in the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals and scored the winning goal for the Hurricanes in overtime of Game 1, before losing to the Detroit Red Wings in five games. He is the only player in NHL history to be named to captain two separate franchises (Hartford/Carolina and Pittsburgh) each in two separate periods.
Francis finished his career with a brief stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs, traded there by the Hurricanes in March 2004 to allow him one last run at the Stanley Cup. He retired from the NHL before the 2005–06 season and assumed a position with the Raleigh Youth Hockey Association. In June 2011, Francis assume the position of Director of Hockey Operations with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Awards and achievements
He won 2 Stanley Cups, in 1990–91 and the following season, with the Pittsburgh Penguins. His best season was 1995–96 when he had 119 points; that season, he led the league in assists with 92. The previous season, he had not only led the league in assists with 48 over the strike-shortened half-season schedule, but became the first player to win both the Frank J. Selke Trophy and the Lady Byng Trophy in the same season.
His Whalers number No. 10 was raised at the Hartford Civic Center on January 6, 2006 (though not officially retired, the Whalers organization no longer existing to retire it), along with Ulf Samuelsson’s No. 5 and Kevin Dineen’s #11. Additionally his Hurricanes No. 10 jersey was retired by the Carolina organization on January 28, 2006. He was also pictured in the Pittsburgh Penguins Ring of Honor that formerly circled the upper level of the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.
On June 28, 2007, he was selected to enter the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot. He was formally inducted on November 12, 2007.
- Selected to the NHL All-Star Game in 1983, 1985, 1990 and 1996.
- Won a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992.
- NHL Plus-Minus Award winner in 1995.
- Awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 1995.
- Awarded the Lady Byng Trophy in 1995, 1998 and 2002.
- Awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2002.
- Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
- Currently in 4th place of all-time regular season NHL point leaders with 1798 points
- Currently in 24th place of all-time regular season NHL goals with 549 goals
- Currently in 2nd place of all-time regular season NHL assists with 1249 assists
- Currently in 3rd place on all-time NHL regular season games played with 1731 games
Francis and his wife Mary Lou have three children, Kaitlyn, Michael and Connor.