Hall of Famer hockey player, former New York Rangers general manager Emile Francis, dies at 95

NEW YORK – Emile Francis, the young goalkeeper who became a Hall of Fame coach and general manager for the New York Rangers, has passed away. He was 95 years old.

The Rangers announced the death on Saturday night.

“Emil’s passion and dedication to the Rangers organization and the development of hockey in New York City have been second to none,” Rangers president and general manager Chris Drury said in a statement. “The Cat has been a true pioneer and innovator, as well as being the architect and coach of some of the greatest teams in Rangers history.

“Emile has meant as much to the Guardians 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 was the Rangers general manager from October 1964 to January 1976, and also served as the coach for parts of 10 seasons during that time. New York made nine consecutive playoffs in his tenure, reaching at least the semi-finals in four consecutive years (1971-1974) and the Stanley Cup final in 1972.

As a Rangers coach, he was 342-209-103 and has franchise records for regular season wins and games, playoff wins (34) and games (75). He has also put together the famous GAG streak (to a goal in a match) for Rod Gilbert, Jan Ratel and Vic Hadfield.

After being sacked by Rangers in 1976, Francis was the general manager of St. Louis Blues from 1976 to 1983, serving two terms as coach in 1976-77 and 1981-83 and collecting a record 46-64-14. He then left to become the General Manager of Hartford Whalers from 1983 to 1989.

Francis was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for his service in hockey in 1982, the same year he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a builder.

“The National Hockey League mourns the passing of Emile Francis, Hall of Fame coach and general manager whose infectious personality was as beloved as his hockey acumen,” National Hockey Association Commissioner Gary Pittman said in a statement. “The NHL sends its deepest condolences to his family and to his many friends and fans.”

Francis was also named a Wayne Gretzky International Hall of Fame winner for US hockey in 2015 for his contributions to the growth and advancement of the sport in the United States.

From North Battleford, Saskatchewan, the 5-foot-7 Francis was 32-52-10 with 3.75 goals-to-average and one closing in 95 NHL games in six seasons with the Chicago Rangers.

Off the ice, he formed the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League to promote the sport to youth in New York City, and organized youth clinics in the community. Rangers launched an award for it in 2008, awarded to an individual who develops youth hockey in the area.