Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Latest In Ronnie-Land

First, all is going quite well for Ron Francis with his Director of Player Development job...
this article tells about how appreciated he is up in River Rat Country...

ALBANY -- The questions have come quick from the veteran Albany River Rats, as well as the rookies. They want to hear stories that only Ron Francis can tell. They want to hear advice and suggestions from Francis, who ended his playing days No. 4 on the National Hockey League's all-time scoring list.

Francis, 43, is director of player development for the Carolina Hurricanes, one of the NHL parent clubs for the River Rats. He came into town Wednesday night and will be here through tonight's game with the Springfield Falcons.

Thursday, he was on the ice with the Rats for practice. He was showing some moves around the goalie, looking very much like a guy who still could be playing.

But, after 23 seasons, 549 goals, 1,249 assists and 1,798 points, he knew it was time to go. And it isn't so bad when the guys ahead of you on the all-time list are named Gretzky, Howe and Messier.

"I was comfortable moving on," said Francis, who lives in Raleigh, N.C. "I have no desire to go out there and play. I can walk in the rink in Raleigh or here and enjoy a game as a fan."

Francis played with the Hartford Whalers (one of his teammates was Rats coach Tom Rowe), Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina and the Toronto Maple Leafs before retiring on Sept. 14, 2005.

After some time away, he came back to the game and now shares his knowledge with players in the Carolina organization. He also checks in on junior hockey players around the country.

"I don't go out there looking for respect from any of these guys," Francis said. "I know what these guys are trying to accomplish. I was fortunate enough to play in the NHL for a long time. I know these guys want to get there; some of them have been there and want to get back. I am just here to try and help them."

Rowe encourages all his players -- even those who are affiliated with the Colorado Avalanche -- to pick Francis' brain while the future Hall of Famer is here.

"He is here to see what guys here can help the big club," Rowe said. "This is great for our guys to have him here. When you have a Hall of Famer in your midst, you definitely want to take advantage of it."

Francis is expected to be back in Albany before Christmas and will make trips here at other times during the season.

"He knows what it takes to be in the NHL," said Rats forward Keith Aucoin, who has spent some time there. "We have to use this as an advantage and ask him questions. We all want to get to the next level. He's been there."

It should be noted that after Ron's spending time with them, the Rats went on to win their next game with not only four goals, BUT ALSO a shutout. Further proof of how you should never underestimate the power of #10.

For those of you who may have forgotten about Ron's other job besides the one he holds with the Canes, TrustAtlantic finally got the profiles for their directors up on their official site. And Ronnie's looking quite sharp in his.

Last, but certainly not least: Despite not covering ice hockey as a "major sport" (I.E. it only gets brief mention on ESPN News), ESPeeN has got a deal up on their site where you get to pick your four most ultimate lines ever in NHL history. And yes, Francis is among the various greats, past and present, you can pick.

My top line? Some hints...

1. know who I had to include. ;)

2. The Penguins are my second favorite team, overall AND historically.


3. If one linemate had been more healthy and the other had not turned out to be such an ego*, they could have given the same period in time's "Legion of Doom" quite a run for their money, if they did not already do that.

Current Music: "The First Noel/O Holy Night/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" Acoustic Medley by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

* - Funny how having an album AND being one of the focuses of a highly unique opera can do that to someone...

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