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by Staff Writer / Carolina Hurricanes


Ron Francis
Carolina Hurricanes captain Ron Francis meets with a family as part of the Ron Francis Night Out program.
NEW YORK (May 17, 2002) -- Ron Francis has led his team to its first-ever Stanley Cup Conference finals berth and today, he is announced as the leader in community service among all National Hockey League players.

The Carolina Hurricanes captain has been named this year's recipient of the NHL Foundation Player Award for his commitment to various charities. The award is accompanied by a grant of $25,000 to further causes Francis supports.

Among Francis' most important charitable legacies is the Ron Francis Night Out program. The charity was designed to provide respite for children's hospital patients and their families as they deal with life-altering illnesses. Francis was inspired to create these programs as a result of his own experiences, having spent significant time in hospitals due to his younger brother's seizures and learning disability.

The Ron Francis Night Out program creates special nights for children who are patients at Duke Children's Hospital in Durham, N.C., and their families. It includes a limousine ride, roses for the parents, dinner at the Hurricanes' Arena Club Restaurant, gift bags for the children and tickets to Francis' luxury suite to watch the Hurricanes play. After the game, the families meet Francis in the locker room area.

"It is truly an honor to be recognized by the NHL for doing something that is so meaningful to me," Francis said. "Many of the children I've met over the years have inspired me -- as a person and as a hockey player -- to be the best I can be, both on and off the ice."

Francis also supports the Special Olympics, serving as Chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Ontario Special Olympics Summer Games, and is on the board of the Carolina Hurricanes' Kids 'n Community Foundation. Francis was instrumental in the creation of Hurricanes Hallway at Duke Children's Hospital, an inviting area that welcomes and entertains pediatric patients. In addition, he has supported charitable efforts related to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City.

On the ice, Francis has played more than 1,500 NHL games, scoring more than 500 goals and close to 1,200 assists. At 39, he has captained every team for which he has played (Hartford, Pittsburgh, Carolina), and has won two Stanley Cup championships. Francis' stellar play this year -- 77 points in 80 games played during the regular season and nine points in 12 playoff games entering the Eastern Conference final -- has spearheaded the Hurricanes' exciting Stanley Cup drive.

In its fifth year, the NHL Foundation Player Award recognizes an NHL player who applies the core values of hockey -- commitment, perseverance and teamwork -- to enrich the lives of people in his community. Last year, Olaf Kolzig of the Washington Capitals was acknowledged for his charity work. Other recipients include Adam Graves (2000), Rob Ray (1999) and Kelly Chase (1998).

The NHL Foundation judging panel consists of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman; former New York Islander and New York Ranger and current NHL Director of Alumni Relations Pat Flatley; NHL Group Vice President of Communications Bernadette Mansur; and former NHL All-Star and current NHL Director of Off-Ice Programs Brian Mullen.

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