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Francis Holds Press Conference at RBC Center

by Staff Writer / Carolina Hurricanes
On Thursday afternoon, former Hurricanes captain Ron Francis was on hand at the RBC Center to discuss his recent election into the Hockey Hall of Fame.  Read on for a complete transcript of the press conference.


Video of the Press Conference

Also see: CarolinaHurricanes.com's coverage of Francis' election day

On getting the call
“Obviously I was aware it was that day, and it was the first time I was eligible, so you’re always hoping to get that phone call the first time you’re up, but until you get the call you never really know what’s going to take place.  Certainly that was a special phone call to get that day when Bill Hay called from the Hockey Hall of Fame, and it was a very exciting day for me and my family.”

On how confident he was of being selected
“I still go back to the year I was the third leading scorer in the league and didn’t get picked to play in the All-Star game, so ever since then I tend to wait for things to happen before I get too caught up in them.  But certainly I was hoping it would take place and there were a lot of good players up, so to get that call was great.”

On when he realized his career was special
“I think my attitude was to always come into training camp in the next season and almost feel like I had to prove myself all over again and work that hard to do that.  When you’re in it year-to-year, you’re almost caught up in the moment and it’s not until times like this that you can sit back and look back on things.  It was 26 years ago that I started playing in the National Hockey League.  It was 16 years ago when I won my first Cup and my daughter was born.  I look at her sometimes and just kind of shake my head and wonder where the years went with her, and it’s the same thing with my career, I wonder where the time went.  It actually feels like just yesterday when I started, but it’s really 26 years later.”

On how he would like to be remembered
“As far as a player, I think somebody that was consistent, that came to work every day and tried his best and was consistent over his career.  I think overall just as a person, someone who tried to treat others the way he wanted to be treated, and I was fortunate in my career to meet a lot of great people both in the game and in the cities that I lived in, I made a lot of great friends both in and out of the game in those cities, and it’s interesting as you start this, you never really know – it’s like life, you never really know what’s in front of you.  But certainly the path that my career took, at times you wonder what’s going on, but at the end you look back and it was great.  I wouldn’t change a thing.”

On this year's Hall of Fame class
“You look at the guys who were up and some of the guys who didn’t make it, a guy like Igor Larionov and Adam Oates and Claude Lemieux, they were up this year too and didn’t get in.  I certainly think those guys will have their time, but the guys I’m going in with, Scott Stevens, Al MacInnis and Mark Messier, those are great players, guys that I’ve had the pleasure of playing against for a lot of years and really understand how good they are.  Even a guy like Jim Gregory, who I got to know over the years through the league and stuff, and it’s almost fitting that he’s the guy that goes in with us.  I’m really excited to go into the Hockey Hall of Fame, but even more excited to go in with this class of guys.  It’s pretty special.”

On his relationship with Scott Stevens
“We played together in ’85 in Czechoslovakia, we were at training camp in the late ‘90s for Canada again and won the Canada Cups, and I’ve played against him a lot of games over my career.  You understand the kind of player he is, and he’s the kind of guy when you’re on the ice, you know where he is.  The hit, that’s part of the game.  It’s one of those things that happened, I opened myself up and got caught.  I still take a lot of pride in the fact that I came back, and the next year we had to go through New Jersey again to get to the Cup finals, and we were able to do that.  He’s a great player, and I’ve played against him through juniors all the way up.  I know the type of player he is, I had that respect for him as a player, and I think he has the same respect for me and what I was able to do.”

On if that was his only concussion
“No, I had one earlier in my career in Montreal.  My head hit the glass, and our trainer at the time came out and was helping me get off the ice and in the process I knocked his baseball hat off and I think he was losing his hair at the time, and he dropped me like a sack of potatoes to recover the baseball cap (laugh). I’ve probably had a few more, but those are the only two I remember (laugh).”

On answering his critics
“I found it comical when I broke into the league, the question was, ‘we think he can be a good player, but we’re not sure if he skates well enough.’  Then 10 years in the league, it was’ well, I’m not sure if he skates well enough.’ Then 23 years later it was ‘well, I’m not sure if he’s going to be able to skate well enough.’  I think fortunately for me, I wasn’t the greatest skater, but I was able to sort of think the game very well.  My hockey sense was good where I could anticipate how things were going to develop and use the angles in the rink to sort of cut down and make my speed less of an issue.  That helped me in the defensive aspect and in the offensive side, again having that hockey sense to be able to anticipate what was going to take place and find my teammates.

As a guy who didn’t skate very well, I probably relied more on my teammates over the course of my career than most guys who are heading to the Hall of Fame.  If it wasn’t for a lot of great players I got a chance to play with who finished the passes I gave them, then I probably wouldn’t be here.  This is very gratifying for me, but hopefully there are a lot of guys I played with in my career that take special pride in seeing me go in too, because they played a big part of it.”

On coming to Carolina
“I made that decision to come here in ’98, and I said at the time, I hate when guys say money had nothing to do with it, I said at the time money had something to do with it obviously, but I also did the homework and researched the area and it was intriguing for me to come to a so-called non-hockey market and help sell the game.  It’s a great place to live, a great place to raise your family and the organization has treated me well over the years.  You saw the excitement we had in 2002 when we got the finals, and it’s frustrating we weren’t able to win it, but again to be able to turn right around a couple of years ago to come back and win it and just the excitement in the city, I think that went a long way to solidifying this as a hockey market for a long time.”

On who he enjoys watching the most in the NHL today
“Unfortunately I’m watching a lot of the minor league guys and I don’t get to see a lot of the NHL guys, but from the old guy standpoint I have a special spot in my heart for Jaromir Jagr, just because being in Pittsburgh and watching him sort of grow up there over his career and see some of the things he does is exciting for me.  Certainly you look at some of the young talent, guys like Crosby and Ovechkin, and guys like that that are just the next wave of the game, I think it bodes well for the sport of hockey that you have that kind of talent coming in.  My job, I’m out there sort of looking at the next tier guys in college and juniors and the minor leagues, and there’s still a lot of great players in the system yet to come, and the future of hockey looks very bright.”

On whether any current players remind him of himself
“No, they all skate faster than I did (laugh).  I think timing is everything too, with the way the game’s played a little different right now too, it’s a different kind of game.  It will be interesting to see after Anaheim wins the Cup if the dynamics will change again.  You already hear Ottawa talking about how they want to get bigger.  There was sort of a move away from that a couple of years ago with the new rules, and now with Anaheim’s success winning the Cup you’re hearing teams start talking about getting that size back too, so it will be interesting to see where the game heads over the next couple of years.”

On if he would have benefited from playing under the new rules
“I think A, I would have been in the penalty box a lot more for hooking and holding from trying to keep up with these guys, or B, I would have had a few more points cashing in on all the power plays that are out there today.  I’m sure the guys that played before me had certain things that they would sort of think about differently, as I said before I think the way the game is played now is very exciting, and I’m glad hockey has taken that direction.  I think for the fans, they’re getting to see just how good some of these players are on skates and with the puck and stick, and it’s exciting to watch again, and I’m glad the league has taken that step.”

On the current Hurricanes team
“It seemed like they were a step off last year, and I think a lot of that comes from the fact that, it’s one thing to go as deep as you do in June and win it, but what people don’t understand is the physical drain that takes on your body and the mental drain to get yourself to that peak and staying that high every second night for roughly two months, and then basically trying to turn around and start back up with that same level two months later is extremely tough.  Not to mention you throw in a couple of major injuries of guys who were out like Stillman and Kaberle and all the minor injuries that people were playing with at that point, it makes it very tough to get back to that level.  With the summer they’ve had this summer, they’ve had a lot of time to sort of regroup and work on the conditioning and work on their health, and I expect they’ll come back real strong this year.”

On whether the suspicion currently surrounding some professional athletes has cheapened statistical accomplishments
“I don’t know if it clouds so much.  In our sport, never once did I look at it and say I want to play five more years because I want to pass so-and-so.  If I still enjoyed playing the game, was having fun and wanted to do it.  It will be interesting to see going forward, back when I started the salary structure was nowhere near as significant as it is now, so now with guys coming in and making a lot of money at a very early age, I’ll be curious to see whether guys still push their body when they get to that 30, 35, 40 range or whether they’re just going to say ‘hey, I’ve got enough, I’m healthy, and I’m moving on.’ I think that will play a bit more going forward than anything else.”

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