Nicknamed “The Cat”, the 1982 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, is the Rangers’ all-time leader in wins and games coached.
The New York Rangers announced the passing of Hockey Hall of Famer Emile Francis at the age of 95. on Saturday night. The Saskatchewan native’s cause of death has not yet been revealed.
One of a kind.
You will be missed, Emile Francis. pic.twitter.com/iKrcUkdtet
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) February 20, 2022
“I mourn the loss of my dear friend Emile Francis,” Rangers senior advisor and alternate governor Glen Sather said in a statement. “I had the privilege to play for Emile, coach against him, and work in the league as a general manager at the same time as him. I always admired Emile’s passion and dedication, and he was one of the true characters of our game I’d like to express my deepest condolences to everyone who knew and loved Emile.”
“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 added in the statement. “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.”
Francis, who often went by the nickname of “The Cat”, originally joined the Rangers’ organization in 1948. He would mostly work with the team’s minor league affiliates, including the Cincinnati Mohawks, Saskatoon Quakers, and Vancouver Canucks (no relation to the modern NHL franchise of the same name). Francis appeared in 22 NHL games over four seasons with the Rangers, mostly serving as a backup to Chuck Rayner. Despite a relatively short resume as an NHL player, Francis left a major mark on hockey history through his role in the creation of the modern day goaltender’s glove.
Francis’ remained in the Rangers’ organization as both a head coach and front office prescience. He remains the Rangers’ all-time leader in games coached (654) and won (372) over a ten-year tenure that began when he took over for Red Sullivan in the midst of the 1965-66 season. Though he occasionally stepped aside to focus on his front office duties, Francis guided the Rangers to nine consecutive playoff appearances (1967-75), tying a singe-broken team record. Francis was behind the bench for the entirety of the 1971-72 season, when he took the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final.
After his time with the Rangers, Francis moved on to St. Louis, helping the financially struggling Blues find stability as the team’s general manager and executive vice president. He returned to the bench one more full season as the Blues’ boss in 1976-77 and coached 44 more games in 1982 before returning to the front office. Francis also supervised the NHL glory days of the Hartford Whalers, serving as the team’s general manager (1983-88) and president (1988-93). Under his watch, the Whalers’ earned their first (and only) NHL division title in 1987.
Francis was inducted into Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982 alongside fellow Rangers legend Rod Gilbert. He remained an active presence in both the New York and St. Louis hockey communities and was bestowed the Wayne Gretzky International Award for his efforts in growing the game in 2015.
Francis is survived by his sons Rick and Bobby.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags