I mentioned a few posts ago that I grew up a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates because of a family connection to the city. (I was born there and even though I was an infant when we moved to Birmingham, my parents both had family there so it was THE vacation destination of my childhood.) There was a point when I realized that I was cheering for the Pirates, who were very, very bad at the time - this was before the 4 year period between the 80s and the current 15 season losing streak when they were actually competitive - and ignoring the Penguins who were, at the time, developing into a very good team. So I started claiming to be a Penguins fan.
Now I wasn't REALLY a Penguins fan since we came back to the same old problem of not having much hockey coverage in Birmingham, Alabama, but I did watch a few games and my grandmother - God bless her - started throwing Penguins articles and tapes in with all the Pirates clippings she sent. From the beginning, I was drawn to Ron Francis. I don't know why it was him and not Mario or Jagr who were clearly The Stars of The Team although I've never been drawn to the marquee players so maybe that's part of the reason. And yes, the fact that I thought he was extremely handsome with his salt and pepper hair and his slightly askew nose probably also contributed. But I just liked him. He very quietly worked hard, accomplished a lot, and was cleary liked and respected by those around him. He was well-known for doing all kinds of charity work in the Pittsburgh area. He just seemed like a remarkably good guy which always wins points with me. In fact, the first hockey jersey I ever owned was a Ron Francis #10 that I bought with my very own money.
When I finally got to the point where I could honestly call myself a hockey fan, Ron was in Carolina and that early love for him had clearly stuck with me because I cheered really hard for him to win one final Stanley Cup. So congratulations to Ronnie for being elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame today. (Technically it's Friday but in my head it's still Thursday, okay?) I've been fretting for weeks that he was going to be the odd man out since it was a year loaded with worthy nominees so I'm more than relieved about this. Since everyone else's coverage involves a picture of Mark Messier - even now you're being underappreciated, man! - I'll illustrate this post with an image of the dashing Ron.
(Do you know it was impossible to find a picture of Ron Francis with the Stanley Cup? You have failed me for the last time, interwebs!)