New York Rangers legend and Hockey Hall of Famer, Emile Francis, who helped build the franchise’s status as a player, head coach died on Saturday at the age of 95, the team announced.
“Emile’s passion and dedication to the Rangers organization and growing the game of hockey in New York City was second to none,” Rangers president and general manager Chris Drury said. “‘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.”
After a 95-game NHL playing career as a goaltender for the Chicago Blackhawks and Rangers from 1947-1952, Francis returned to the Rangers where he served as general manager from 1964-1976 where he oversaw one of the most successful periods in franchise history.
The Blueshirts made the playoffs in nine consecutive seasons from 1967-1975 and advanced to at least the Stanley Cup semifinals in four consecutive seasons from 19711 – 1974, which included a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 1971-72.
He also served as head coach for parts of 10 seasons over three different stints (1965-66 – 1967-68, 1968-69 – 1972-73, 1973-74 – 1974-75). He coached 654 regular-season games and posted a 342-209-103 record. He is the Rangers’ all-time leader in wins, games coached, and points percentage in franchise history. He is also the franchise’s all-time leader in playoff wins (34) and playoff games coached (75) in franchise history.
In 1982, Francis received the Lester Patrick Trophy “for outstanding service to hockey in the United States” and was also inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Builders category.
He also received the Wayne Gretzky International Award from the US Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015.
“I mourn the loss of my dear friend, Emile Francis,” former Rangers general manager Glen Sather, who now acts as senior adviser to the owner, said. “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.”