No All-time Devils team could be complete without the name Neil Francis on it, and we are pleased to make him the final member of this All Time Team spanning over the past 35 years.
Franny has been with the Devils since the 1992-93 season when he made his on ice debut, eventually playing 14 seasons with his hometown club. After hanging up his skates, he moved onto the bench as assistant coach and was Gerad Adams’ right hand man running the bench while ‘G’ was a player/coach for 5 seasons - from the start of the 2009-10 campaign to midway through the 2013-14 season.
Francis with Andrew Lord discussing strategy
Then he turned his focus to ensuring the survival of the Devils and eventually found Todd Kelman and the current ownership group to take over the club in the summer of 2014. He was insistent that an unproven rookie coach named Andrew Lord be given the opportunity to be player/coach and he moved back onto his familiar spot behind the bench for the next 2 seasons.
Francis presenting Conference Trophy to Jake Morissette and Leagut Trophy to Mark Richardson
Since then, he has continued to support the hockey side of the business, helping with player recruitment and was part of the selection committee for the new coach last year along with Kelman and Lord when they hired new coach Jarrod Skalde.
Todd Kelman spoke about Neil Francis and what he means to the Devils:
“If Neil Francis had never played a game for the Devils, I would still put him near the top of the list of most important people ever associated with this team, maybe only behind John Lawless.
“Without sounding dramatic, I genuinely don’t think the Devils would be here if Franny hadn’t kept it together over the years. I know that myself and our ownership group certainly wouldn’t be here.
Franny at the buzzer when the Devils won the Challenge Cup in 2015
“Both Gerad Adams and Andrew Lord have had excellent working relationships with him during their times as coaches and I personally really lean on him for support.
“Fans see how much he does for this club, and they see less than half of what he ACTUALLY does for this club.”
The Devils owners and management are pleased to add Franny to the All-time team, which completes the roster.
His number 29 will join the rest of the squad’s jerseys up for auction on ebay, which will go live next week. There will be no raffle for the other jersey, we have decided to give it to his dad (and lifelong Devils fan) Dennis Francis.