Francis announces retirement from NHL after 23 seasons
By AARON BEARD, AP Sports Writer
September 14, 2005
AP - Sep 14, 1:53 pm EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Ron Francis, one of the NHL's career leaders in games played, goals, assists and points, announced his retirement Wednesday, ending his 23-year career.
Francis, 42, was a four-time all-star who played for Hartford, Pittsburgh, Carolina and Toronto. He ranks among the league's all-time leaders with 1,731 games (third), 549 goals (19th), 1,249 assists (second) and 1,798 points (fourth).
Francis said he had decided to retire months ago, but made it official as other notable players like Mark Messier, Scott Stevens and Al MacInnis left the game this month.
``Looking back overall, it was a long ride,'' Francis said Wednesday. ``I certainly wasn't expecting it to be that long, but I certainly enjoyed many aspects of it and look back with fond memories and absolutely no regrets. It was a great part of my life.''
Francis was a part of Stanley Cup-winning teams in Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992, and helped the Hurricanes make a surprise run to the Cup finals in 2002.
He also was a three-time winner of the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded to the player exhibiting sportsmanship and gentlemanly play combined with playing ability.
Francis said he was most proud of his career consistency -- he had 20 seasons with at least 20 goals -- and being a part of successful teams.
Of course, being mentioned alongside the game's greats like Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe in the all-time lists is pretty special, too.
``I think anybody would certainly be honored to have their name mentioned with Wayne Gretzky,'' said Francis, who is second to ``The Great One'' in career assists.
``I don't really look at myself in that category, but hearing your name mentioned alongside them is something I'm proud I've accomplished, and I take that as a huge compliment.''