Local News

Francis Hopes Work Ethic Rubs Off on New Team

Posted July 13, 1998

— Ron Francis is no hockey savior. Never has been and doesn't plan to be with his new club, the Carolina Hurricanes.

``If you think that one individual is going to win you a championship you are mistaken,'' Francis said Monday after signing a four-year, $20.8 million free agent contract with the Hurricanes. ``In our game it is going to take 20 guys being successful.''

Francis hopes to help a franchise that has missed the NHL postseason six years running in a variety of ways on and off the ice.

``A big part in my helping this team be successful will be the time I spend with Keith Primeau and Jeff O'Neill and some of the other young guys in developing them and hopefully speeding along their process,'' Francis said.

Normally, Francis' age (35) would have been a factor in negotiations, but the center is in top physical shape and has played in 81 games in each of the last two seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

``I guess I would probably describe myself as pretty much a blue collar type of player with hopefully white collar results,'' said the league's ninth all-time scorer with 1,434 points. ``I bring to the rink every night a work ethic that was sort of instilled at me at a early age by my dad. They can count on me to show up every night and give it everything I have.''

The Hurricanes gained instant credibility by signing the future Hall of Famer. Carolina was ridiculed by some throughout hockey last season for fleeing Hartford and then producing an NHL-low attendance in its new southern home.

However, Carolina came up big by signing one of the league's top players 4-1/2 months after losing a $38 million bidding war with Detroit over free agent Sergei Fedorov.

``When you have the opportunity to add Ronnie Francis to your team it shows an even bigger commitment to win,'' said Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford.

Francis said he liked the depth of the Hurricanes and wasn't scared off by their recent playoff drought.

``I have two Stanley Cups under my belt so my choice didn't have to be a team that could win it immediately, although that is still my goal,'' Francis said when asked if people would question his move to a losing franchise he once played for.

``Money was a factor, but it wasn't the only factor,'' said Francis, who was fifth in the NHL in scoring last season with 87 points on 25 goals. ``We may or may not have gotten more someplace else, but when we got to that point with Carolina we never really pursued (more money). This is the place I felt made sense - in a hockey sense and in a family sense.''

Francis stressed his homework of the rapidly growing area of North Carolina, saying it was a great place for his wife Mary Lou and three young children to live. Rutherford said after the move from Connecticut he hoped the Research Triangle area would help lure free agents to his club.

``My character and my family are a big part of my life. I wanted a place I thought my family could enjoy,'' Francis said.

Francis said as many as 10 teams inquired about his services once the free agent market opened July 1. He said it became apparent after Christmas that the Penguins had no plans to resign him.

Rutherford said the Hurricanes first offered Francis $4 million a season, but saw that figure increase once center Doug Gilmour signed a three-year, $18 million deal with the Chicago Blackhawks late last week.

``The Gilmour signing came and a couple of others and the market changed a little bit,'' Rutherford said. ``But Ron's resume speaks for itself.''

Francis earned $1.9 million with Pittsburgh last season.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound center won the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship and high standard of play for the second time in the last four years this past season.

Francis made his mark in Pittsburgh playing with Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr and winning a pair of titles, but he broke into the NHL with the former Hartford Whalers and played there for 10 seasons before being traded in 1991. He still holds most all of the franchise's scoring records. Bob Holliday contributed to this report.


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