Emile Francis, retired NHL goaltender, coach and executive, will be honored with the Wayne Gretzky International Award at the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony Dec. 17 in Boston, USA Hockey announced Monday.
Established by the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999, the award pays tribute to those who have made major contributions to the growth and advancement of hockey in the United States.
"Emile Francis has had a tremendous impact on the development of hockey in the United States, particularly at the grassroots level," said USA Hockey president Jim Smith. "Because of him, the game is better."
Nicknamed "The Cat" for his quickness in net, Francis played six NHL seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers. He began his coaching career in 1961 with the Rangers' junior team in Guelph, Ontario, before being named general manager in 1964 and coach the following year. Francis still holds Rangers coaching records for games (654), wins (342), winning percentage (.602), playoff games (75), and playoff wins (34).
Francis joined the St. Louis Blues in 1976 and served as executive vice president, general manager and coach during his seven seasons with them. He became general manager of the Hartford Whalers in May 1983 and spent 10 years with them before ending his NHL career as Whalers president in 1993.
Francis is the founder of the Metropolitan Junior Hockey Association, the longest operating junior hockey league in the U.S., and the St. Louis Metro Junior B League. He has also served as a consultant to the Amateur Hockey Association of the United States.
"His greatest legacy is what he did for hockey in all the cities in which he played, coached and managed," said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. "He created the model for NHL club engagement with the amateur hockey community in their market."
Francis will be the ninth recipient of the Wayne Gretzky International Award, joining Murray Costello (2012), Anatoli Tarasov (2008), Herb Brooks (2004), Bobby Hull (2003), Scotty Bowman (2002), Scotty Morrison (2001), the Howe family (2000) and Wayne Gretzky (1999).