NHL Seattle names Ron Francis as team's first General Manager

Ron Francis, General Manager, NHL Seattle and Tod Leiweke, CEO, NHL Seattle

SEATTLE -- The NHL Seattle group announced on Thursday the hiring of Hockey Hall of Famer and two-time Stanley Cup Champion Ron Francis as the franchise's first General Manager.

Francis will head the team's entire hockey operations, including player personnel, coaching staff, pro and amateur scouting, player development, analytics, sports science and AHL minor league operations.

“Announcing Ron Francis as our team’s first general manager is a dream come true,” NHL Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke said. “He is truly hockey royalty and is the perfect fit for the team we are building. He has a proven track record in hockey management, a dedication to the community and an eagerness to innovate which fits our vision.In our search, we looked for someone who is smart, experienced, well-prepared and progressive.I am confident that he will maintain our commitment to excellence and ultimately guide us to a Stanley Cup.”

After his playing career, Francis returned to the Hurricanes in 2006 as Director of Player Development. He became Assistant General Manager in 2007 and then spent the next three season (2008-10) as an associate head coach under Peter Laviolette and Paul Maurice. He returned to the front office in 2011 as Director of Hockey Operations and was promoted to General Manager in 2014.

"We were in Solvakia and Austria for a month for the World Championships and when I was there the passion really came back for me. ... When Tod reached out to me, I came into town and kind of started talking to him and (NHL Seattle COO) Victor Debonis and got an idea of what they were trying to do. Met the staff the next day. I toured the facility, which was absolutely incredible the project that they're doing and I think it's a venue that our fans and the people of Seattle are going to be extremely proud of. I had the opportunity to meet with a lot of the owners and hear their vision about what they wanted to do. Honestly, it just became why not? This is just going to be a fantastic opportunity. We've got a blank canvas. Sure, it's a daunting task and a lot of work, but it's a new challenge that you don't get every day because not every sports team starts from scratch. So I'm really excited about the challenge and looking forward to doing some good things here in Seattle."

“I am excited to join NHL Seattle as its first general manager and to work in partnership with Tod, David Bonderman, our ownership group and the NHL Seattle team to continue to build a world-class organization and hockey operation,” Francis said. “Twelve seasons working in player development, coaching, scouting, and management have led me to this moment and this role. I’m excited to bring that experience to Seattle as we build something truly special and historic.”

Francis spent four years in the G.M. role with the Hurricanes before being removed of his duties with the franchise. While the Hurricanes did not make the playoffs in any of his four seasons as G.M., the team made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year with a roster influenced by Francis.

"We were in Solvakia and Austria for a month for the World Championships and when I was there the passion really came back for me," Francis said on Thursday. "When Tod reached out to me, I came into town and kind of started talking to him and (NHL Seattle COO) Victor Debonis and got an idea of what they were trying to do. Met the staff the next day. I toured the facility, which was absolutely incredible the project that they're doing and I think it's a venue that our fans and the people of Seattle are going to be extremely proud of. I had the opportunity to meet with a lot of the owners and hear their vision about what they wanted to do. Honestly, it just became why not?

"This is just going to be a fantastic opportunity. We've got a blank canvas. Sure, it's a daunting task and a lot of work, but it's a new challenge that you don't get every day because not every sports team starts from scratch. So I'm really excited about the challenge and looking forward to doing some good things here in Seattle."

A native of Ontario, Canada, Francis was the fourth overall pick of the 1981 NHL Draft by the Hartford Whalers. Francis spent parts of 23 seasons in the league, playing for the Whalers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs. He won a pair of Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992 with the Penguins alongside Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, and was named to four All-Star teams in 1983, 1985, 1990 and 1996. Francis remains second all-time in career assists behind only Wayne Gretzky, fifth in career points and fourth in games played.

"Probably the most underrated player in history. He did everything right," Jagr said in a video announcing Francis' hiring.

Francis was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007 and was named as one of the NHL's 100 Greatest Players of All-Time in 2017.

Photo Credit: NHL Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke shakes hands with new team General Manager Ron Francis, who was named to the post on July 18, 2019. (photo courtesy of NHL Seattle)

Carolina Hurricanes v New Jersey Devils - Game Seven

Photo Credit: NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 28: Associate Head Coach Ron Francis of the Carolina Hurricanes tends to the bench against the New Jersey Devils during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Prudential Center on April 28, 2009 in Newark, New Jersey. The Hurricanes defeated the Devils 4-3. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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