Drafted 4th overall in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft by the Hartford Whalers, Ron Francis wasted no time showing his new club that he was NHL ready. In just 59 games during his rookie season, Francis amassed 68 points while using a Sherwood stick, Cooper gloves, Cooper pants, Bauer skates and a CCM helmet. He would be the heart and soul of the Hartford Whalers for the greater portion of 10 seasons before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the tail end of the 1990-91 season.
He would slot in as the Penguins’ 2nd line center, behind Mario Lemieux, and the results were...well, as to be expected. Pittsburgh would win back to back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. Francis played an especially crucial role for the Penguins in the 1992 NHL Playoffs after Lemieux suffered a broken left hand during the second round. In 21 games, Francis tallied 27 points and scored the Cup-clinching goal to complete the series sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks.
His clutch playoff performance would spark the most productive stretch of his career. For the remaining six years of his contract with the Penguins, Francis would score at a 100 point pace - including a career-high 119 points in just 77 games while leading the NHL in assists (92) during the 1995-96 regular season.
Francis returned to the Carolina Hurricanes (the Hartford Whalers were relocated in 1997) as a free agent and would spend the next 5 and a half seasons solidifying his franchise records for goals, assists, points and games played. During the 2002-03 NHL season, Francis earned his 1200th assist while using an Easton Synergy stick, Franklin gloves, Franklin pants, Bauer Supreme 7000 skates and a Bauer 7500 helmet.
He was given one last crack at a 3rd Stanley Cup in 2004 when he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. While he ultimately came up short in his final game, he was seen using an Easton Synergy stick, Easton gloves, Easton Air pants, Bauer Vapor XX skates and a Bauer helmet.
Even after 23 NHL seasons, Ron Francis still can’t tear himself away from the game. In July 2019, Francis was named GM of the new NHL Expansion Team based in Seattle. If his career as a GM turns out to be anything like his career as a player, Seattle will be in great hands for years to come.