PITTSBURGH -- Ron Francis
has already played with and won championships with fellow Hall of Famers like Mario Lemieux
, Paul Coffey
and Bryan Trottier
. So, playing with them again in the Alumni Game here at Heinz Field was nothing new.
Francis, though, was thrilled for an altogether different reason.
"What makes it even more interesting for me is I've always been a die hard Steelers fan going back to the Iron Curtain defense," Francis told NHL.com. "When I first got traded here I got to meet Jack Lambert in the locker room after some games. I went to a lot of football games over the years and became very friendly with Bill Cowher and to this day I'm a big Steelers fan. To have the opportunity to be out on this field playing a hockey game with guys like Mario and Coff and all the guys you won championships with it's a special moment. I am really fortunate I had the opportunity to do it. I appreciate the chance."
Francis is also lucky he had this chance. His team, the Carolina Hurricanes
, has played on New Year's Eve every year he's been on the executive staff dating back to 2006. The Canes, though, aren't scheduled to play again until Saturday, so Francis was able to fly into Pittsburgh on Thursday.
He'll have to leave Friday night so he can make it back in time for Saturday's morning skate in Raleigh.
"This is one of the few times we aren't playing New Year's Eve so it gave me the opportunity to come in," Francis, who is the Canes associate head coach and Director of Player Personnel. "Any time you get together with the guys and have a lot of fun, rehash old stories it's enjoyable. I thoroughly enjoyed this."
Francis said Friday was only the second time since he retired five years ago that he put on his gear. The first time was during the annual Hockey Hall of Fame Game during his induction weekend in November 2008.
He's on the ice everyday with the Hurricanes, but that's in a track suit and "you are basically just standing around and pushing pucks. It's a little different."
How did he feel when it was all over?
"I actually feel pretty good," he said. "I had pretty good linemates (Kevin Stevens
and Bryan Trottier
). They can work hard in the corners those two guys. Made it easy for me."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl