Seattle Kraken, Ron Francis

Kraken’s GM Ron Francis And The Pain Of Losing A Final

From the late great “Terrible” Ted Lindsay to Kraken General Manager Ron Francis, with many conversations in between, I’ve found that reminiscing with Hockey Hall of Famers can often involve regretting the losses as much as revelling in the wins.

Despite winning four Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings between 1950 and 1955, Lindsay told us in 2012 that he never got over the loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the 1966 Stanley Cup because the victory for the Habs was ill-begotten.

Henri Richard pushed the puck into the net with his arm,” Lindsay said, referring to the “the Pocket Rocket’s” sprawling overtime goal to win Game-6 and the championship. And Richard apparently used to tease Lindsay about winning that Cup and the ten others he notched, the most for any player in NHL history. It bugged Lindsay until he passed away in 2019.

Kraken GM Francis won two Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992, but I turned our conversation Wednesday to the 2002 Final, a five-game loss for his Carolina Hurricanes to the Detroit Red Wings. Francis had scored the game winning goal in Game-1 before the Hockey Hall of Fame-laden Red Wings won the next four.

“Yeah, we had ’em in Game-3 in Raleigh (North Carolina), we were up a goal with right around a minute to go, they scored a goal, tied it up, and it went into triple overtime,” Francis recalled. “At one point in overtime I had one right between (Detroit goalie Dominik) Hasek’s legs and it went out the other side. I still think if we had won that game, we had a chance to really win the series. Unfortunately it didn’t happen, we lost in five.

“I think that team (Detroit) ended up with a payroll of $82-million and ours was $28-million and if my numbers are right they had eight, nine, or ten Hall of Fame guys on that roster. So it was an exciting team to be a part of in Raleigh, that (Canes) team was just competitive as hell and almost found a way to pull off a major upset.”

Hall of Famer Igor larionov scored the game winner in Game-3 for Detroit. Francis continued the list …

“It was a little different looking across the ice and seeing who you were going up against,” Francis pointed out, “(Nicklas) Lidstrom, (Chris) Chelios, (Steve) Yzerman, (Sergei) Fedorov, (Brendan) Shanahan, and (Luc) Robitaille. There was a few guys on the other side.”

He only left off goalie Hasek, forward Brett Hull and of course the head coach Scotty Bowman, yet another Honoured Member. By the way, Pavel Datsyuk was a rookie on that team, if he goes in as expected some day, that would be ten Hockey Hall of Fame players.

Two years later Francis’s 23-year NHL career, in which he finished 2nd in all-time assists and 5th in all-time scoring, came to an end following a trade and 12 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Kraken Connections

Based on my couple handfuls of interactions with Paul Maurice over the years and the much closer relationship Francis has had with him, it can be stated emphatically that the current head coach of the Florida Panthers is an easy guy to cheer for. Saturday marks the start of his second-ever second Stanley Cup Final as an NHL bench boss, the other time being with those Carolina Hurricanes in 2002.

“First time I signed in Carolina (as a player) was 1998, Paul was the head coach, we were both from the same home town, “the Soo” (Sault Ste Marie, Ontario), we had never met each other, and he was three years younger than I was,” Francis said with a smile. “We built a great relationship over the years, he’s obviously a real good coach, people are all seeing that now, and a good person with a real good dry sense of humor that I’ve come to enjoy over the years.”

The Panthers will battle the Vegas Golden Knights in the best-of-seven for Lord Stanley’s chalice. Some will relish in the glory of victory, others are destined to never forget the loss.

Simmer for a TV interview with Ted Lindsay at Gretzky’s Restaurant in Toronto in 2012.

— Editor’s Note: Did the crazy payroll discrepancy in 2002 contribute to the owner’s lock-out and the introduction of the salary floor (minimum) and the salary cap for NHL teams two to three years later? Francis said he doesn’t recall because he was a player at the time but there is a distinct possibility. Teams like the Red Wings and the New York Rangers regularly outspent the opposition, particularly those clubs with much less revenue in smaller, non-traditional markets.

It would have been an upset for the ages.

Other Recent Kraken Stories:

Seattle Kraken of the Future: Jacob Melanson

Kraken Daily: Firebirds and T-Birds Win

Kraken NHL Draft, Forwards of Interest

Kraken NHL Draft, D-men Possibilities

The Kraken Broadcast Shrine Voodoo

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.