Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 11/06/07 at 06:38 PM ET
Ron Francis, Al MacInnis, and fellow inductees Mark Messier, Scott Stevens and Jim Gregory, will be honored at the 2007 Induction Celebration on Monday, Nov. 12 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
More on Francis at NHL.com and below is the transcript from a media conference call with Francis, from earlier today.
A video of his career highlights is also provided.
During his 23 year NHL career, Ron played in 1731 regular season games, the third most in League history. He scored 549 goals added 1249 assists, second only to Wayne Gretzky in assists. And his 1798 points are fourth all time behind Gretzky, Mark Messier and Gordie Howe. He won Stanley Cups in 1991 and ‘92 with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Q. I think the first question I want to ask you is do you feel the trade with Pittsburgh, I believe it was the trade deadline around that time, do you think that was the turning point of your career?
RON FRANCIS: Well, I think it certainly helped get a little more individual notoriety. I think we went to Pittsburgh where three months later we ended up winning the Stanley Cup. And again the next year when you play on a team with a lot of talented players and you have success like that, I think ultimately, you know, they look for reasons and they start looking for different guys on the team. As a result, we all individually benefited from that sort of notoriety. So it certainly didn’t hurt going to the Stanley Cup.
Q. I’m a little curious as to what your thoughts were when the trade happened?
RON FRANCIS: It was a crazy time for us. We had just had our first child a few weeks earlier, and my wife had a C?section, so she was recovering from that. And I had been there almost ten years. I think anybody will tell you, I don’t think you really go looking for a trade.
When I got the call, I was kind of, you know, a little bit surprised and disappointed, obviously. When I got to Pittsburgh and saw the opportunity that was there, I got pretty excited about it.
Q. I was going to ask you about Hartford, your first ten years in the NHL. If you can reflect back to the time there and those years, and the fact they retired your jersey even after the franchise had left.
RON FRANCIS: I got to Hartford as an 18?year?old kid. I felt like I grew up in that market. When I got traded I was 28. Still have a lot of good friends from that era that I keep in touch with. Some will be in Toronto this weekend. I met my wife there and started a family there. So certainly my time there is something I really enjoyed and liked.
I got the call that they were going to put my number and Al’s number and Kevin’s number up on the ceiling, and I thought that was a special tribute. And Jim Schoenfeld and the Rangers organization did a real nice job that evening. It was a fun night.
Q. What about on the ice? What are your fondest memories?
RON FRANCIS: I think any time you play your first NHL game, you remember that. I got to do that with the Oilers. You score your first goal. I think a lot of the different guys that were on those teams, you look around the league now, and there was a whole slew of them that are still active in the game ? whether they’re coaching, assistant coaching or agents or on TV or whatever.
I think from that standpoint I just enjoyed going on the ice with those bunch of guys. It was fun, we were all about the same age growing up in our careers at the same time. So it was a good place to play.
Q. Your consistency in your career is amazing. And I know that you’ve had many great years. But do you consider the ‘95?‘96 year where you had the 92 assists which was your career high. Do you consider that your best year?
RON FRANCIS: Yeah, I think that was the year I got to play with a guy by the name of Lemieux on my left wing and Jagr on my right. So it makes it a little easier to get 92 points. The weird part is they didn’t put us together until November. But I think you mentioned the early consistency, for me the fact that I was able to be consistent over my career is something, probably, that I’m most proud of.
Q. When you got the call that you’re going into the Hall of Fame, what was your first reaction?
RON FRANCIS: I was really excited. Obviously you know that that’s the day, and there is a possibility, and you’re hoping to get that phone call. But, nonetheless, I don’t think you’re ever ready for it.
When they called to tell me, I was extremely excited and thrilled that they felt that my career was worthy of entering such an elite group of guys in such a special place in hockey. I was really excited about it.
Q. Al MacInnis was talking about some of the challenges of putting together a Hall of Fame speech. And I was just wondering how your speech was coming along, and how you’ve kind of found putting one together?
RON FRANCIS: Well, it’s not finalized (laughing). I guess that should tell you something. It’s really tough when you try and sit back and look back on your career. You know there are so many people that have touched your life both on the ice and within your career in the NHL whether it be owners, GM’s, coaches, players, trainers, all the way down. And that doesn’t even account for all of the people that you encountered outside of the game that you met along this trip, too.
For the most part I think I’m okay with it. There are a couple of paragraphs I’m really wrestling with. I think it involves, you know, I know there are going to be some guys there and some guys that can’t make it, and how do you thank certain people without offending other people is the biggest challenge? That’s probably why it’s still not done.
Q. Have you sought any advice on kind of how to go about it? Have you tried to maybe inject some humor into it? Or are you playing it a bit more straight and go from there?
RON FRANCIS: I think my personality is to play it a little more straight. Trying to do this speech and get through it in a timely fashion. To get all of the things you want to get in there, you have to be more straight to the point and straightforward.
Q. On a separate note, have you ever wondered ever since the salary cap’s been put in what might have happened? Hartford had the salary cap and instituted it a bit earlier, do you think that may have made the difference there?
RON FRANCIS: I think it would have helped. You know, I think the salary cap issue and revenue sharing issue certainly helped in the smaller markets. Certainly in Carolina it helps us. So there’s no question that some of the former cities that were in the NHL couldn’t survive under the old system possibly could survive under the new one.
Q. You’re less than a week away from the day, and you’ve known for so long. Do you feel yourself getting nervous? Is this something you do get nervous for?
RON FRANCIS: Yeah, I don’t think there is any question. This is a big weekend. There are a lot of things going on. You have to get up there and give a speech, a lot of the things.
I always said put me in front of 40 or 50,000 people and play hockey, I’m comfortable there. Put me in front of 50 people to talk or get in front of, and that’s where I’m probably the least comfortable.
But I’m hoping ?? the night here when the Hurricanes retired my jersey, I was able to sort of really sit back and enjoy that. I’m hoping that that is a similar situation this weekend. That I’m able to really take it all in and enjoy it and have fun with it. Because it is a special weekend, and that’s what I’m hoping I’m able to do.
Q. Have you thought advice from anybody who has been through it? If so, did they tell you make sure you do this, make sure you do this, you know? Things like that?
RON FRANCIS: No, I mean, I had some calls from different guys that already went through it. I think that the one common thread of advice they’re saying is to make sure you enjoy it.
It’s a great weekend. The Hall of Fame does a tremendous job of putting a special weekend together. And you’re going to have fun and enjoy it. So I’m looking forward to it.
Q. I was wondering if you could talk a little about what it was like to be a captain at such a young age in the NHL?
RON FRANCIS: I think on one side it’s obviously extremely flattering that an organization thinks that you’re up to that task. But by the same token in taking that I was probably 100% ready to do it. It’s a learning curve you go through. And you try to do things properly and learn from guys that have been around the league and have been through some things.
Certainly, I think any time someone offers to put that on your jersey, it is something you don’t take lightly and something I was very proud of.
Q. Anything in particular you looked up to at that time that really kind of helped you develop as a captain?
RON FRANCIS: My first year in the league I had a guy by the name of Dave Keon as my roommate, so that was a pretty good place to start. You know, Dave took me under his wing and, you know, we built a friendship that I’m proud to say still continues today. And certainly that was great.
We had a guy like Mark Johnson who came in from the Olympic team. And Greg Millen and his wife let me live at their house that first year when I was young. So we had a good group of guys in that locker room that I could lean on as time went on.
And a lot of the guys that were on the team when I was captain have gone on to do great things around the league. Guys that are head coaches and numerous assistant coaches. It was a pretty solid locker room that made my job easier.
Q. This class that you’re joining is mind?blowing when you first look at the list. How do you feel about going into this with Al MacInnis, Mark Messier and Scott Stevens?
RON FRANCIS: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thrilled about it. I got the phone call that day, and as excited as you are and as proud as you are to get that call to go into the Hall of Fame. When they start telling you who you’re going in with, Mark Messier and Scott Stevens and Al MacInnis, and even a guy like Jim Gregory who I’ve known for a lot of years in the game and has done so much as proud as I am to go in. What a great bunch of guys and awesome group of hockey players to go into with. I’m thrilled to go in with this class.
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