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Centennial Portraits

Sittler, Francis portraits unveiled

Color paintings of 100 Greatest NHL Players will be revealed on NHL.com on select Fridays in 2017

NHL.com @NHL

As part of the NHL Centennial Celebration, renowned Canadian artist Tony Harris will paint original portraits of each of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian as chosen by a Blue Ribbon panel. NHL.com will reveal two portraits each Monday in 2017, and two on Friday Aug. 11, 25 and Sept. 8.

This week, the portraits of centers Darryl Sittler and Ron Francis are unveiled in the 33rd installment.

Darryl Sittler played 1,096 NHL games, but more than 40 years later he's still best remembered for the one he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Boston Bruins on Feb. 7, 1976. On that night at Maple Leaf Gardens, Sittler scored six goals and assisted on four others for an NHL-record 10 points; no one else, before or since, has had more than eight points in a game. 

But Sittler was anything but a one-hit wonder. He also shares the record for goals in a Stanley Cup Playoff game, having scored five times against the Philadelphia Flyers on April 22, 1976. In addition, he scored one of the most famous goals in Canadian hockey history, the overtime winner against Czechoslovakia that clinched the 1976 Canada Cup.

Sittler is also a five-time 40-goal scorer, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and one of the most popular players in Maple Leafs history. His No. 27 was retired before Toronto's home opener last season; he had to fight back tears when the banner honoring him was raised.

In his NHL100 profile of Sittler, author Dave Stubbs looks at the greatest offensive night by any player in NHL history.

"Sittler had an excellent body of work through 15 NHL seasons, playing with Toronto from 1970-71 into 1981-82 before moving to the Flyers for two-plus years and spending his final season with the Detroit Red Wings in 1984-85. But inevitably, any discussion about Sittler comes back to his historic night against the Bruins, when it appeared he could have put the puck in the net while sitting on the Toronto bench.

"'I will never forget the record-tying point,' Maple Leafs great Lanny McDonald told NHL.com in February 2016 on the 40th anniversary of Sittler's milestone game. 'There was such a buzz in the dressing room in the second intermission, especially after [Maple Leafs publicity director] Stan Obodiac came in and told Darryl that he was one point shy of tying Rocket Richard's record [of eight points in a game].'

"Montreal Canadiens forward Maurice Richard had established the League's single-game record with five goals and three assists in a 9-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 28, 1944. Canadiens forward Bert Olmstead equaled Richard with four goals and four assists in a 12-1 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 9, 1954.

"With history at his doorstep, Sittler tied Richard and Olmstead with a third-period goal, then scored two more to seize the record for himself and bring the roof down at Maple Leaf Gardens."

Harris said he had two looks to choose from when it came to how he wanted to portray Sittler.

"My main decision in choosing an image for Darryl Sittler's painting was whether to go with the 1980s helmeted Sittler or the '70's big hair Sittler," he said. "As much as I love the helmet, I went with the hair."

Video: Darryl Sittler once scored 10 points in one game

Ron Francis was an NHL great who flew under the radar. 

Francis spent most of his NHL career with the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes franchise (he's now their general manager). In between, he was a key to the Pittsburgh Penguins' Stanley Cup championship teams in 1991 and 1992, though he was generally the No. 2 center behind Mario Lemieux.

More than a decade after he retired following a brief stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2004, Francis is still No. 5 on the all-time scoring list with 1,798 points and No. 2 in assists with 1,249, trailing only Wayne Gretzky (1,963).

Yet when most fans think of all-time NHL greats, Francis' name rarely comes up. He didn't get the kind of media attention other stars did, but few players were more proficient at using their talents to make their teammates better. Even Lemieux occasionally played wing with Francis in the middle; those two, along with Jaromir Jagr, formed a trio that was a nightmare for opposing goaltenders.

In his NHL100 profile of Francis, author Stu Hackel recounts how "Ronnie Franchise," as Francis was known in Hartford, became one of the final pieces to the championship puzzle with the Penguins.

"A 25-goal, 43-assist first season got Hartford fans seeing him as the foundation for the club's future. They called him 'Ronnie Franchise,' and for nearly 10 full seasons Francis did just about everything for the Whalers. He led them in scoring five times and in assists nine times. At nearly 22 he was named captain in February 1985 and was pegged as the young, rising star who -- it was hoped -- would lift the small-market franchise to the Stanley Cup.

"Then, quite suddenly, things changed after the 1989-90 season. The fans' love for him remained, but Francis' relationship with the organization frayed following a fourth straight disappointing first-round playoff knockout. Contract negotiations with new ownership and management stalled. Coach Rick Ley inexplicably stripped Francis of the captaincy. The Whalers and Francis drifted apart.

"Coincidentally, for one week in late 1990, a Pittsburgh pro scout had watched the Whalers play three home games, looking for help on defense. He was most impressed with No. 10, who played a complete game, had energy and great vision, passed excellently, possessed a good shot and cleaned out opposing centers on faceoffs. He wasn't the fastest skater, but showed great balance and, at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, was very hard to knock off the puck. The scout thought he'd be a terrific second center in Pittsburgh behind Mario Lemieux.

"As the 1991 trade deadline neared and Hartford badly sputtered, the Whalers called around, telling teams they'd move Francis. Penguins general manager Craig Patrick pounced, acquiring him and much-needed physical defensemen Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings on March 4.

"'Funny, how I went from the best thing since sliced bread last season to totally on the outs over the summer,' the normally reserved Francis told the Hartford Courant when he learned of the trade. 'But I'm pleased I was able to put it out of my mind and play well the last few months.'"

Harris said Francis reminds him of one of the NHL's icons.

"I think of Ron Francis as a modern-day Jean Beliveau," he said. "He was a big, smart playmaker who could score and left the game in a better place than when he started. I wanted this portrait to convey his powerful playing style but also his calm on-ice demeanor."

Video: Ron Francis has second-most assists in NHL history

 

Darryl Sittler

 

 

Ron Francis

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