New York Rangers mourn passing of Emile ‘The Cat’ Francis

emile francis
Feb 25, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Former Rangers coach Emile Francis speaks during a banner raising ceremony for former Ranger star Jean Ratelle before a game between the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers mourn the passing of one of their great legends. Emile ‘The Cat’ Francis passed away today at the age of 95.

“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 said in a 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.”

Rangers Great Emile Francis passes away

The Cat, as he was known, played goalie for the Blueshirts from 1948-49 to 1951-52. He only appeared in 22 games going 7-10-4 with a 3.14 GAA, but his real mark with the organization came as a coach and general manager.

New York Rangers press release:

Francis served as the Rangers’ general manager from October 30, 1964 to January 6, 1976, overseeing one of the most successful periods in franchise history. During Francis’ tenure as the Rangers’ general manager, the Blueshirts made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in nine consecutive seasons from 1966-67 – 1974-75 and advanced to at least the Stanley Cup Semifinals in four consecutive seasons from 1970-71 – 1973-74, which included a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 1971-72.

In addition to working in the Rangers’ front office as general manager, as well as assistant general manager prior to ascending to that role, Francis served as the Rangers’ head coach for parts of 10 seasons over three different stints (1965-66 – 1967-68; 1968-69 – 1972-73; 1973-74 – 1974-75). Francis coached 654 regular season games with the Rangers, and guided the team to a 342-209-103 (W-L-T) record (.602 points percentage). He is the Rangers’ all-time leader in wins, games coached, and points percentage (min. 100 games coached) in franchise history. Francis is also the franchise’s all-time leader in playoff wins (34) and playoff games coached (75) in franchise history.

Hockey world mourns Francis

Emile Francis
Emile Francis behind the Rangers bench (NHLI)

“I mourn the loss of my dear friend, Emile Francis,” Rangers Senior Advisor to the Owner 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 National Hockey League mourns the passing of Emile Francis, a Hall of Fame coach and general manager whose infectious personality was as beloved as his hockey acumen was revered,” a league statement read.

“But it was as a team-builder and teacher in New York that he excelled. Serving as Rangers GM/coach for a decade, Francis guided his teams to the playoffs nine straight years, produced three consecutive 100-point seasons and reached the 1972 Stanley Cup Final. He was instrumental in the development of legendary players such as Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle and Brad Park. The NHL sends its deepest condolences to his family and to his many friends and admirers.”

Emile Francis, Hall of Fame person

Francis was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982 as a builder. That extended far beyond the NHL to the streets of New York City.

In 1966, he formed the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League to give inner city kids a chance to play hockey. Nick Fotiu and Brian Mullen are two kids to play in Emile’s league and eventually perform on Garden ice.

The Rangers honored his legacy in 2008 by creating the Emile Francis Award, which goes to those who grow youth hockey in their local communities. The Cat was also awarded with the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1982 for his outstanding service to hockey in the U.S..

Rest in peace to a legend. We know Rod Gilbert has already greeted him with a smile.