Bobby Francis

Bobby Francis grew up in the rich tradition of the National Hockey League since the day he was born. His father Emile "The Cat" Francis who played 12 professional seasons as a goaltender, 6 with the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers. He is better known as a Hall of Fame builder in hockey after a long coaching and managing career including lengthy stays with the the New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues and Hartford Whalers.

Born in North Battleford Saskatchewan in 1958, Bobby grew up largely in New York where Emile became a front office fixture for the Rangers starting in 1962. Bobby developed his skills in the New York Metro Junior Hockey League. Because of the large population, ice time was hard to come by. So Bobby learned much of his hockey training by playing roller hockey. Of course Rollerblades or inline skates didn't exist back then. Like fellow New Yorkers Joey and Brian Mullen and Nick Fotiu, Bobby learned the game of hockey on those old roller derby skates!

But by playing on wheels Bobby's game improved immensely. When he did get a chance to get on the ice, he was already far better than the kids who didn't play on wheels. That, plus the fact that his dad was a former NHLer, helped open doors for Bobby.

Following Bobby's junior days, Bobby walked through one of those open doors when he decided to continue his education at the University of New Hampshire where he earned All American Honorable Mention. Bobby was a fantastic hockey player at UNH as well. During the years at New Hampshire, Bobby's team was the team to beat in the Eastern Collegiate Conference. After a 19 goal performance his senior year, another door was opened for Bobby when he signed as a free agent with the Calgary Flames.

During his first pro season, 1980-81, the 5'9" 175 pound center scored 22 goals while splitting the year playing for Birmingham (CHL) and Muskegon (IHL). However it was the 1981-82 that was the season to remember for Bobby. Bobby would set new scoring records while playing for Oklahoma City of the CHL. He not only earned the scoring title, and the Rookie of the Year honors, but the Most Valuable Player award as well. After scoring 48 and 114 points, Bobby returned to the CHL in 1982-83 with his sights set on the CHL scoring record. This time with Calgary's affiliate team in Colorado, Bobby was off to a fantastic start - scoring 20 goals and 36 points in 26 games. He even scored 5 goals in one game!

However his chase of the CHL scoring record was put on hold after the 5 goal game. Bobby was traded by Calgary to Detroit of the National Hockey League. Bobby was quickly called up to the Red Wings where he would make his NHL debut.

"Playing in the National Hockey League was something I always dreamed of, everybody does. It was real gratifying to know I had finally made it," said Francis.

However, this Cinderella story ends with the call-up to the big show. Despite his obvious promise, Bobby never got a great shot at making the Red Wings roster. While on the Red Wings roster, there were 7 other centers on the team. And with Detroit in a playoff race there was no chance that a raw rookie like Bobby would get some playing time.

"It was then I opened my eyes to the other things that go on off the ice in hockey," Francis said. "Everybody in the Detroit organization was new and they were having a tough time adjusting. Things just didn't go like I thought they would."

Bobby played in only 14 games, scoring 2 goals and no assists.

Bobby was shipped to the American League to play with Adirondack to finish the season. In 16 games Francis scored only three goals. The promising CHL star had trouble adjusting to the higher level of competition, and that left Bobby frustrated.

"As the season came to a close, I had to consider my future in the game. There were several offers from European teams and one of the offers looked real good. Then out of the blue, Doug Spedding (owner and president of the Colorado Flames) called me and asked what it would take for me to play with the Flames," Francis recalled.

Bobby ended up signing a 1 year contract with the Colorado CHL team. The popular #9 had a strong season, scoring 82 points (32 goals, 50 assists) in just 68 games but opted to leave Colorado in the summer of 1984. He continued his career in his new home of Salt Lake where he played with the IHL's Golden Eagles. He started out slowly in the IHL, scoring 40 points in 53 games in 1984-85. The following year he improved to 76 points in 82 games before scoring his second best professional season of 98 points in his final year of pro hockey in 1986-87.

Bobby quit playing hockey but remained with the Golden Eagles until 1993 in a coaching capacity. He was an assistant coach until 1989 when he was named head coach . Bob decided to pursue opportunities outside of Utah that would lead him to a NHL coaching job. The Golden Eagles at the time were a Calgary Flames affiliate, but their number one farm team was the St. John Maple Leafs. The Flames were impressed with Francis enough to offer him the head job with the St. John Flames from 1993 through 1995.

Bobby left the Flames organization to coach the Boston Bruins farm team in Providence from 1995 through 1997.

By 1997 Bobby Francis - like his dad many years before him - had become one of the top coaching prospects in all of hockey. The Bruins promoted him to the NHL where he served as an assistant coach under Pat Burns.

By 1999 Bobby reached his ultimate goal by becoming the head coach of his own NHL team. The Phoenix Coyotes hired Francis. He did an admirable job with a ownership-in-limbo situation and superstar goalie Nokolai Khabibulin's contract squabbles.

"I have been spending a lot of years to prepare for this opportunity. I was the head coach in the minor leagues for nine years and I had the luxury and the good fortune to be an assistant coach for Pat Burns and work for Jacques Laperriere for two years in Boston. You tend to -- I think you have to be your own person. You have to generate your own style. If you try to emulate somebody else, I think the players can read through that and the things have to come natural, they have to come from your own thought process. You learn a little bit from different people you work with throughout the years. Again, I think like any individual, you learn most from your parents growing up and what they stand for and you try to implement those beliefs in your daily process," he said of his coaching abilities.

By 2002 he was named as the Jack Adams Award winner as best coach in the NHL. Less than two years later he was fired as the Coyotes on-ice performance wilted significantly.


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