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Francis among Canes' new investors

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The Carolina Hurricanes have added more investor partners, and the group includes Ron Francis, a man whose jersey number was retired by the franchise and whose plaque is in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Francis played for the Hurricanes, and has served as assistant general manager and associate head coach. He's now vice president of hockey operations.

Three of the new partners announced Wednesday by Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. were Playmakers Management, LLC (Francis); Greengarden DRC, LLC (Eliza Kraft Olander and Brian McHenry); and Ron de Lange. The other two investment partners  chose to keep their partnerships private.

"It is very encouraging that these locally-based investors feel so strongly about our franchise and its future," Karmanos said in a statement. "We are proud to have this group of prominent North Carolinians involved with our team."

Francis, who retired as a player in 2005 and was inducted in the Hockey Hall in 2007, said a loyalty to Karmanos was one reason he chose to invest in the team.

"Pete Karmanos was good to me, signing me as a free agent and later keeping me in the organization and allowing me to gain a lot of (management) experience," Francis said in an interview. "It was important to give a little back and help Pete."

It's the second time Karmanos, who relocated the franchise to North Carolina in 1997, has added investors. In November, he announced a group of 10 partners, which included Hurricanes president and general manager Jim Rutherford and Michael Kahn, owner of the Charlotte Checkers.

"I'd go to a lot of the investor meetings and presentations, as the more I listened it made sense to me to help the franchise," Francis said. "We see this franchise getting better and better. We want to grow our game and grow our business in this area."

Francis scored 549 goals and earned 1,249 assists in 23 NHL seasons with Hartford, Pittsburgh, Carolina and Toronto. He twice won Stanley Cup with the Penguins, helped the Hurricanes reach the Stanley Cup finals in 2002 and had his jersey number -- No. 10 -- retired in January 2006.

He and his wife, Mary Lou, have a daughter, Kaitlyn, and two sons, Michael and Connor, and reside in Raleigh.

"I always joke that my wife followed me around my whole career," Francis said. "When I stopped playing, I asked her where she wanted to move to. She said, 'I'm not leaving here. I love this area!'"

Other investment partners:

Eliza Kraft Olander is retired from the business world and focuses on community development and philanthropy. Brian McHenry is President of McHenry Software. Together they are involved in many national and local charitable organizations, including the FrankieLemmonSchool, Triangle Wine Experience, YMCA, SPCA, Band Together and Children's Flight of Hope.

They have two children, Michael Olander, Jr., who lives in Raleigh and owns O2 Fitness Clubs in the Triangle and eastern North Carolina, and Amanda McHenry Keesee, a U.S. Naval officer who recently moved back to North Carolina with her husband, Cody Keesee, who is also a Naval officer.

Ron de Lange is president and CEO of Tekelec, an innovator of mobile internet solutions headquartered in Morrisville, and serves as a member of Tekelec's board of directors. He recently served for several years as a board member of the Morrisville Chamber of Commerce, and has also served as a board member of the Alliancefor Telecommunications Solutions (ATIS) and on the DePaul University School of Computer Science, Telecommunications and Information Systems (CTI) Leadership Council.

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About the blogger

Tim has covered high school sports for more than 40 years. He is the only active newspaper reporter in the National High School Sports Hall of Fame and is a member of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame. He was the co-author of the original NCHSAA record book. When he not writing about boys and girls, he often is at church or in a theater. Email Tim.
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