Emile Francis will be honored as the recipient of the prestigious Wayne Gretzky International Award as part of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Celebration on Thursday, Dec. 17, at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel, it was announced today by USA Hockey.
The award, established by the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999, pays tribute to international individuals who have made major contributions to the growth and advancement of hockey in the United States.
“Emile Francis has had a tremendous impact on the development of hockey in the United States, particularly at the grassroots level,” said Jim Smith (Mount Prospect, Ill.), president of USA Hockey. “Because of him, the game is better.”
One of Francis’ most outstanding contributions to the sport was the founding of the Metropolitan Junior Hockey Association, currently the longest operating junior hockey league in the country, and the St. Louis Metro Junior B League. He also organized countless clinics and seminars, and served as a consultant to the Amateur Hockey Association of the United States.
“His greatest legacy is what he did for hockey in all the cities in which he played, coached and managed,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “He created the model for NHL club engagement with the amateur hockey community in their market.”
Born in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Francis began his coaching career in 1961 with the New York Rangers’ junior team in Guelph, Ontario, before being called upon as the Rangers’ general manager in 1964. The following year, he was also named head coach, a position he would hold for most of the next 10 seasons. Francis still holds franchise coaching records for games coached (654), victories (342), winning percentage (.602), playoff games coached (75), and playoff wins (34).
In 1976, Francis joined the St. Louis Blues and eventually served as executive vice president, general manager and coach. After seven campaigns in St. Louis, he became general manager of the Hartford Whalers, where he ended his career as president of the organization in 1993.
Nicknamed “The Cat” for his quickness in net, Francis’ professional career as a goaltender spanned from 1943-1960, including time with the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and multiple American Hockey League teams.
Francis was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1982 for his outstanding contributions to hockey in the United States, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame that same year. Additionally, in 2008, the Rangers established the annual Emile Francis Award in his honor, which recognizes a youth hockey supporter for outstanding service to grassroots development.
Notes: Francis will be the ninth recipient of the Wayne Gretzky International Award. Previous recipients include Murray Costello (2012), Anatoli Tarasov (2008), Herb Brooks (2004), Bobby Hull (2003), Scotty Bowman (2002), Scotty Morrison (2001), the Howe family (2000) and Wayne Gretzky (1999) … Ron DeGregorio (Salem, N.H.), Chris Drury (Trumbull, Conn.), Angela Ruggiero (Simi Valley, Calif.) and Mathieu Schneider (New York, N.Y.) will be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame as the Class of 2015 … The 2015 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Celebration will also include the presentation of the Lester Patrick Trophy to Bob Crocker (East Boston, Mass.) and Jeremy Jacobs (Buffalo, N.Y.).