Ron Francis came to the Carolina Hurricanes to help establish major-league hockey in a Southern market. He not only did that during his playing career, leading the Canes to the 2002 Stanley Cup final, but has made North Carolina his home.
On Monday, Francis received word that he would be inducted into the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame, becoming the first hockey player named to the hall. The induction ceremonies will be held May 2 in Raleigh.
"I came here to play and to sell the sport, then settled here and now have had this tremendous honor bestowed on me," Francis said Monday. "It's very exciting.
"I've benefited from a lot of other people's hard work to be the first hockey player selected. I'm sure there will soon be a few others knocking on the door."
Francis already has been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame after a career in which he won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins before signing a free-agent contract with the Hurricanes in July 1998. He spent 16 of his 23 seasons with the franchise -- the Hartford Whalers until the relocation to Raleigh in 1997 -- before retiring as a player in September 2005.
Francis scored 549 goals and had 1,249 assists in 23 NHL seasons and his 1,798 points are the fourth-best in NHL history. The Canes retired his jersey, No. 10, in January 2006 and he went into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November 2007.
Francis is the Hurricanes' vice president of hockey operations, assisting president and general manager Jim Rutherford on all hockey-related business.