Francis, Emile (1926–)

Emile Francis with the senior Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Quakers, 1955.
Saskatoon Public Library 3933-1

Emile Francis’ association with the game of hockey lasted for over four decades. Born in North Battleford on September 13, 1926, he played goal for junior hockey teams in his hometown, Moose Jaw, and in Regina. His professional career lasted fourteen seasons with a number of teams, including ninety-five regular season games with the NHL’s Chicago Black Hawks and New York Rangers. During the 1945–46 season, he experimented with a first baseman’s glove, adding a cuff to provide extra support and protection; the modification was a huge success and became the prototype for the glove used by net minders all over the world today. After his playing career ended in 1960, Francis coached the Guelph Royals junior team and joined the New York Rangers in 1962. He coached the Rangers on three separate occasions, in addition to serving as general manager from 1964 to 1975. A year later, Francis became executive vice-president, general manager, and coach of the St. Louis Blues until 1983. He was president and GM of the Hartford Whalers until his retirement in 1993. Emile Francis credits his success in hockey to his experience in the Reserve Army and his leadership role as a non-commissioned officer just as World War II was ending. In addition to his duties as coach and team executive, he established hockey scholarships throughout Canada and won the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1982 for his contributions to the sport. Emile Francis was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982 and the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.

Elizabeth Mooney