SEATTLE — Seattle's NHL expansion team announced two-time Stanley cup winner and Hockey Hall of Famer Ron Francis as its first general manager.
The club introduced Francis during a Thursday morning news conference. (Watch the franchise intruduce Ron Francis below)
The expansion Seattle franchise is set to begin play in the 2021-22 season as the NHL's 32nd team. The team will play at the New Arena at Seattle Center.
Francis will oversee the club's hockey operations, which includes player personnel, coaching staff, amateur and pro scouting, player development, analytics, sports science and AHL minor league operations. He will report to NHL Seattle CEO, Tod Leiweke.
"Announcing Ron Francis as our team's first general manager is a dream come true," said Leiweke. "He is truly hockey royalty and is the perfect fit for the team we are building. He has a proven track record in hockey management, a dedication to the community and an eagerness to innovate which fits our vision. In our search, we looked for someone who is smart, experienced, well-prepared and progressive. I am confident that he will maintain our commitment to excellence and ultimately guide us to a Stanley Cup."
The 56-year-old has been in hockey operations since shortly after the end of his Hall of Fame playing career. All of that time has come with the Carolina Hurricanes, including four seasons as their GM.
Carolina didn't make the playoffs with Francis in charge of decision-making, though his moves put the foundation in place for the team that reached the Eastern Conference final this past season.
"I am excited to join NHL Seattle as its first general manager and to work in partnership with Tod, David Bonderman, our ownership group and the NHL Seattle team to continue to build a world-class organization and hockey operation," said Francis. "Twelve seasons working in player development, coaching, scouting, and management have led me to this moment and this role. I'm excited to bring that experience to Seattle as we build something truly special and historic."
Francis had 1,798 points in 1,731 games over 23 seasons with the Hartford Whalers/Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs. He won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992.
Competing for the Cup in the early going will be the expectation for Seattle after the Golden Knights reached the Final in their inaugural season in 2017-18. Francis will have two full seasons to scout the rest of the league before his as-yet-named team's expansion draft in June 2021.
"The fans in Seattle are ready for hockey. We have more than 32,000 season ticket deposit holders and an additional 25,000 on our waiting list," added Leiweke. "This is our first big hockey appointment. We are thrilled to have made this hire more than two years from dropping the puck."
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