Before Cody Franson was a third round pick for the Predators in 2005, and long before he was even a Vancouver Giant in the Western Hockey League, he was a stick boy for his father's hockey team.
Now he's gone from being his dad’s senior team stick boy to one of the League’s top young defensive prospects. Franson shared the dream of playing in the NHL with his father and with the help of his family, made that dream a reality.
“My dad had me on skates when I was almost four, and then I started playing organized hockey when I was five.” Franson said of his introduction to the hockey world.
However, it was the time spent Franson spent toiling away with water bottles, sweaty equipment and broken sticks that really got Franson interested in hockey.
“My dad still plays hockey to this day. I was kind of the water boy/stick boy for his senior team when he played. I traveled everywhere with them, was in the locker room when they won, I basically grew up in a dressing room.”
“My dad works at the rink where I am from so I got to skate whenever I wanted,” Franson said. "Growing up I missed a lot of half-days of school just going to the rink and having him teach me how to skate and teach me a lot of the fundamental stuff. I have had a lot of fun with this sport ever since I got into it.”
It also didn’t hurt that Franson was from a small town in Canada where a love for hockey made you “normal” with your peers.
“Being in a small town like Sicamous, B.C., that was the thing to do. If you didn’t play hockey you were kind of out of the group at school. All my friends at school played hockey. That’s just what we did. If we weren’t playing on the ice we were playing on the streets somewhere.”
What many fans may not know is that Franson has some extended family from Sicamous on the bench with him every night.
“I grew up with Shea’s (Weber) brother Brandon, who is my age. We have been tight every since we met each other. Brandon and I started together the same year and moved up together every year. We played together until we were 16.”
While playing in Sicamous, Weber’s dad, James, coached Franson and Brandon throughout the years. Due to the age difference, Shea and Franson never played on the same team.
“Every time Brandon and I would move up, Shea would move up as well, just because of the age difference. Shea’s dad coached us for a lot of years and the father of (1999 first-round pick of the Washington Capitals) Kris Beech coached us for a year; with it being a small town you knew someone’s dad is going to coach, it just so happened that Brandon and Shea’s dad coached us for a lot. We had a lot of fun growing up.”
Even though Shea and Franson never had the chance to play on the same team in Sicamous, Franson talked about how close their families have become over the years because of the game of hockey.
“That’s the thing – our families are really close because Brandon and I are really close. His dad knows my dad really well because my dad was always at the rink. It’s one of those things where it is basically like having family here in Nashville because we are so close.
Franson did admit that it was a little odd and ironic, that he and Shea never had the chance to play together in Sicamous, but now have the chance to play together here in Nashville.
“It’s weird playing with Shea now because we never got to play with him growing up, but it’s a lot of fun.”
After his time playing for teams at the local rink in Sicamous, Franson moved on to the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, then played Junior ‘A’ hockey with Smoke Trail of the British Columbia Hockey League moving on to the WHL.
Franson played for the Giants for three seasons, 2004-07, winning both the President’s Cup in 2006 and the Memorial Cup in 2007.
Franson stated that besides his current time playing in the NHL, the one thing he treasures most from his hockey career is the winning of the Memorial Cup.
“It was with a group of guys I had been with for a couple of years and we had gone the previous year and lost and it was something we all went through together. We had all learned from our mistakes.”
Franson also remembers the incredible fan support in Vancouver.
“To win it in Vancouver with all the fan support – it was crazy up there when we were doing it. It was like being the kings of the city for a week. It was awesome.”
Also while he was playing with Vancouver, Franson represented Team Canada, where he was able to travel around Europe and eventually to Sweden where he won gold at the 2007 World Junior Championships.
“It was an awesome experience. Any time you get to play for your own country it’s something really special. It was a very interesting trip because I had never traveled anywhere outside of North America, so it was a bit eye-opening for me. Then playing the games and being able to win it was a lot of fun. The shootout game we had against the United States is something I will remember.”
For the 2007-08 season, Franson moved up to the American Hockey League where he started what would be a successful two-year run with the Milwaukee Admirals. In his first season in Milwaukee, Franson led all AHL rookie defensemen in goals and power-play goals, in addition to being ranked second in points and assists. Franson went on to be named to the 2007-08 AHL All-Rookie Team.
In 2008-09, he ranked third on t
he Admirals in both points and assists, as well as named a 2008-09 Second-Team AHL All-Star.
Beyond the accolades, Franson's time in AHL not only helped him develop as a player but he also made great relationships.
Franson has now found his way to a regular position in the Predator’s lineup, a dream come true for both him, and his father.
“Growing up my dad taught me a lot. My uncle played too, so he showed me a lot of stuff. My whole family played hockey, so I had advice coming from every where.”
Then with a smile of pride knowing all he has accomplished at just 22, Franson admitted, “My dad still gives me some advice, but definitely not as much as he use to.”
Franson still today keeps his dad very involved in his life and hockey career. Franson sends home updates as often as possible and says that he works hard everyday because he's knows how hard it was to get to the NHL – a dream his father never got to live.
“It is something that he dreamed about – to play in the NHL growing up – so it’s a neat experience for him too. All his friends ask him what it is like to have a son play in the NHL; he doesn’t even know how to answer it. It’s been an interesting experience for the whole family.”
The former stick boy still laces his skates the same way he did when he was five – except now the dream is real. He is aware that he can just as easily get sent back down to the AHL, but with the work ethic his father instilled in him years ago at the local rink, Franson shows up every night to give his all.
As this young, up-and-coming prospect starts his NHL career, he always keeps one thing in mind. Advice from a father to his son, and now the son passes on to any young hockey player.
“You have to stick with it. The biggest thing for me was just trying to stay positive through everything. There are going to be bumps a long the road, but do your best to stay positive and stick with it.”