For­mer Canes gen­eral man­ager Ron Fran­cis ‘rein­vents’ him­self with new busi­ness job

The Herald Sun - - Sports - BY CHIP ALEXAN­DER calexan­[email protected]­sob­server.com Chip Alexan­der: 919-829-8945, @ice_chip

It has taken a while, and un­der­stand­ably so, but Ron Fran­cis is mak­ing a move away from hockey.

Not from Raleigh. He and his fam­ily are stay­ing. But hockey.

Fran­cis, the for­mer ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager of the Carolina Hur­ri­canes, has joined NAI Carolan­tic Realty, com­pany chair­man Steve Stroud an­nounced Thurs­day. Fran­cis will work with clients on com­mer­cial real es­tate in­vest­ments, Stroud said.

“I’ve known Steve for a long time and stayed in touch over the years,” Fran­cis said in an in­ter­view. “When things changed for me he said, ‘What are you go­ing to do?’ and he said I would be good at this. We talked about it, I hemmed and hawed, and made the de­ci­sion to go back to school and take the class and learn about real es­tate in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber, passed all the ex­ams and got my bro­ker­age li­cense.

“I talked with Steve and said, ‘Let’s give it a try.’ Here we are.”

Fran­cis, 55, used the word “rein­vent” in de­scrib­ing his move into the busi­ness world. For nearly all of his life, it was all hockey.

He was a Cana­dian ju­nior star, an NHL star, a two-time Stan­ley Cup win­ner and judged wor­thy of the Hockey Hall of Fame af­ter he re­tired as a player. He had his num­ber re­tired by the Hur­ri­canes and was the first hockey player se­lected for the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame.

Mov­ing to the Hur­ri­canes front of­fice, he was the di­rec­tor of player de­vel­op­ment, vice pres­i­dent of hockey op­er­a­tions and also as­so­ciate head coach, then named gen­eral man­ager and ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent in April 2014.

Ev­ery­thing changed when Tom Dun­don be­came ma­jor­ity owner of the Hur­ri­canes a year ago. Dun­don, cit­ing per­son­al­ity dif­fer­ences, first re­as­signed Fran­cis to pres­i­dent of hockey op­er­a­tions in March 2018, then fired him the next month.

Fran­cis has re­mained an in­vestor in the team as a mem­ber of Hur­ri­canes Hold­ings LLC and said he will con­tinue that fi­nan­cial re­la­tion­ship un­til Novem­ber 2019. He said his con­tract with the team ends June 30, 2019, and said he pre­ferred not to com­ment on the team or his de­par­ture from the Canes while still un­der con­tract.

Fran­cis said he has not at­tended any Hur­ri­canes games this sea­son or seen the tele­casts. He was once Rod Brind’Amour’s team­mate and later his boss as GM, but has watched from afar dur­ing Brind’Amour’s first year as a head coach.

“This will be a dra­matic change from what I have been do­ing in hockey, there’s no ques­tion,” Fran­cis said of his new po­si­tion “I do think a lot that you learn in hockey and learn in sports in gen­eral trans­late well to the busi­ness world in terms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, team­work.

“It’s a new chal­lenge. But I cer­tainly feel more com­fort­able that I’m do­ing it with NAI Carolan­tic Realty and Steve Stroud and the peo­ple he has here, who have an out­stand­ing rep­u­ta­tion and are known for their hard work and knowl­edge. I’ve got some learn­ing to do but some good peo­ple to learn with.”

In terms of hockey, Fran­cis said he be­lieves he could have “stayed in the game” and his name has been men­tioned as a po­ten­tial can­di­date for other GM jobs. But he said that could not have hap­pened while main­tain­ing his in­vest­ment in the team, and likely would mean mov­ing his fam­ily.

“At this point in our life, we thought this isn’t ex­actly what we’re look­ing to do,” he said. “So this is a new ven­ture. I’m sure not a lot of peo­ple at 55 rein­vent them­selves.”

Fran­cis did agree to serve as co-gen­eral man­ager, along with Sean Burke, of the Cana­dian team in the re­cent Spen­gler Cup in Davos, Switzer­land. An­other for­mer team­mate, Kevin Di­neen, was the Canada coach al­though the Cana­di­ans did not win a fourth straight ti­tle.

It has been a busy time, Fran­cis said. He said he and his wife, Mary Lou, cel­e­brated their 30th wed­ding an­niver­sary with a two-week trip to Italy. While there, he said, their daugh­ter, Kait­lyn, was en­gaged and will be mar­ried in 2020.

Now, he has a new non­hockey job and said he was at his desk Thurs­day at the NAI Carolan­tic Realty of­fice off Trin­ity Road, not far from PNC Arena.

“I’ve been in this area 20-plus years, been in this mar­ket and made a lot of good friends,” Fran­cis said. “I’m ex­cited about this op­por­tu­nity.”

News & Ob­server file photo

The Carolina Hur­ri­canes' gen­eral man­ager Ron Fran­cis re­sponds to re­porters’ ques­tions in April 2017.

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