When you think of the greatest and most successful hockey players in history, your mind will be riddled with names such as Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Mario Lemeiux, Gordie Howe and more. But what if I was to tell you that the number five all-time scorer and the man with the second most assists in history is almost never mentioned in this conversation? Well, it’s true. Rob Francis had a long and illustrious career and is perhaps the most influential person in the history of the Hartford Whalers, who later became Carolina Hurricanes organization. Here in this article I will give Francis his due and talk about his career, both playing and post-playing days.
Francis was originally drafted fourth overall in the 1981NHL Draft by the Hartford Whalers. He spent nearly ten seasons with the team, serving as captain for almost six years and set most of the offensive records for the franchise (most goals, assists and points). He was eventually traded to Pittsburgh, where he really elevated his game even further. He led a great second line in Pittsburgh (as Lemeiux was the center on the first line) and he helped lead the team to back to back Stanley Cups in 1991 (their first ever) and 1992.
In total, he would spend seven seasons as a Penguin and would actually go on to captain the team twice. But, when he was a free agent in 1998-99, he returned to the team he got his start with. Though the Whalers moved to Carolina and became the Hurricanes, Francis picked up right where he left off and continued to build his lead on the franchise records. At the time of his retirement, his point total was double the next closest player in Whalers/Hurricanes history, making him the clear best player in the history of the franchise. He would again become captain of the Hurricanes which meant he was the only player to be given two terms as captain on two different teams.
By the end of his career, he had amassed one of the most impressive resumes pf any hockey player. In addition to his legendary scoring and assist numbers (which I mentioned in the intro), he was also fortunate enough to play for 23 seasons at a high level and even won two Stanley Cup trophies. He was an absolute model for consistency and durability as he averaged more than a point a game throughout his career and averaged about 77 games played per season. He was also well liked by other players and had a reputation of being a great guy and a gentlemanly player, as evidence from his three Lady Byng trophies. He was also one of only three players to take two different teams to Stanley Cup finals.
Since retiring, he has remained involved with the NHL. In 2011, a few years after his retirement, he took the position of director of hockey operations with the Carolina Hurricanes and a few years later, he became the team’s general manager, a position which he still holds today.