The Rangers have lost a franchise pioneer.
Former Blueshirts goalkeeper, head coach and general manager Emile Francis has died, the organization announced on Saturday. He was 95 years old. The cause of death is currently unknown.
“The New York Rangers and the entire hockey world are saddened to learn of the passing of Emile Francis,” president and general manager Chris Drury said in a statement. “Emile’s passion and dedication to the Rangers organization and the growth of the game of hockey in New York was unmatched. ‘The Cat’ was a true pioneer and innovator, as well as the architect and coach of some of the greatest teams in Rangers history.
“Emile has meant as much to Rangers as anyone who has been part of the organization throughout its history. Our thoughts are with Emile’s family and friends during this difficult time.
Francis, who was nicknamed “The Cat”, made his Rangers debut after the Blackhawks traded him to New York during the 1948-49 season. He wore red, white and blue for four seasons, playing mostly in the AHL, but played 22 games with the Rangers.
After his retirement, Francis coached the Ontario Hockey Association’s Rangers branch, the Guelph Royals, for two seasons from 1960 to 1962. Francis was then promoted to assistant general manager before becoming general manager and head coach in 1965.
The Rangers made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in nine consecutive seasons from 1966-67 to 1974-75, including four straight semifinal appearances and a trip to the finals in 1971-72, during Francis’ tenure. He also coached for 10 seasons over three different spells.
Francis is still the Rangers’ all-time leader in wins, games coached and point percentage in franchise history. Additionally, no other Rangers coach has more playoff wins (34) or more playoff appearances (75) than Francis.
“I mourn the loss of my dear friend, Emile Francis,” said the owner’s senior adviser and acting governor Glen Sather. “I had the privilege of playing for Emile, coaching against him and working in the league as general manager at the same time as him. I have always admired Emile’s passion and dedication, and he was one of the true characters in our game. I would like to express my deepest condolences to everyone who knew and loved Emile.
New York Post