NHL Seattle names Hockey Hall of Famer Ron Francis as GM
NHL Seattle has made its biggest hire to date as it pertains to its hockey operations.
The as-yet-unnamed professional hockey franchise announced Hockey Hall of Famer Ron Francis as the organization’s first general manager Thursday.
IT'S OFFICIAL!@RonFrancis10 is the first-ever General Manager in franchise history!
— NHL Seattle (@NHLSeattle_) July 18, 2019
“Announcing Ron Francis as our team’s first general manager is a dream come true,” NHL Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke said in a press release. “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.”
Said Francis: “I am excited to join NHL Seattle as its first general manager and to work in partnership with Tod, (team owner) David Bonderman, our ownership group and the NHL Seattle team to continue to build a world-class organization and hockey operation. 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.”
Reports surfaced Tuesday night that NHL Seattle would make Francis its general manager.
Elliotte Friedman, a reporter for Sportsnet in Canada and an NHL Network insider, tweeted Tuesday night that NHL Seattle is “closing in” on making Francis its first GM.
The organization itself is declining to comment, but there is word tonight that Seattle’s NHL expansion team is closing in on naming Ron Francis as its first GM. We’ll see how events unfold the next few days; things have been percolating the last few weeks.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 17, 2019
Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times followed with a report that said “sources with knowledge of the situation have indicated” Francis would be announced as the GM by the organization this week.
The Associated Press reported that NHL Seattle and Francis were “close to an agreement,” according to a person with direct knowledge that spoke on condition of anonymity because the team had not made an announcement.
Francis was a legendary player in the NHL, spending lengthy tenures with the Hartford Whalers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes (who were previously the Whalers), as well as a short stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs in his 23rd and final season in the league. A back-to-back Stanley Cup winner with the Penguins in 1990 and 1991, Francis is fifth all-time in points in NHL history and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
The 56-year-old has been in hockey operations since shortly after the end of his playing career. All of that time has come with the Hurricanes, including four seasons as their GM. He was moved from the GM position to president of hockey operations in March 2018 by new Carolina majority owner Thomas Dundon. Francis’ contract was terminated by the team the next month.
Carolina didn’t make the playoffs with Francis in charge of decision-making, though his moves put the foundation in place for the team that reached the Eastern Conference final this past season.
The NHL Seattle team is set to begin play in the 2021-22 season in a new arena under the iconic roof at Seattle Center that previously housed KeyArena and the Seattle Coliseum.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.