But that was Emile’s way, and it has always been a team effort. He was obsessed with not having anything out of place.
I attended training camp one fall in Kitchener, Ontario with my wife and newborn daughter. Francis told the person at the front desk to put us in a room at the back of the hotel – he didn’t want a woman at the boot camp. Too distracted.
I was so fascinated by the game – and by it – that I wrote a book called “A Year on Ice,” which chronicled the roller coaster of the 1969-70 season (and, I’m proud to say, what has just become a fictional film. ). To add what I thought was totally honest at the time, I included a paragraph describing a woman running in tears from a player’s hotel room. That was all. A few sentences.
Around the time the book came out, Francis was involved in contractual battles with some of its stars. He has suspended Brad Park, Jean Ratelle, Vic Hadfield and Walt Tkaczuk because they refused to do a retirement performance without contracts. It was the beginning of the players fighting for their rights in hockey. I wrote a lot about their requests and Francis was not happy.
Everything was resolved after bitter battles. Then, a few weeks after the book was published, at Skateland, the team’s training ground in New Hyde Park, New York, the coach said to me: “Emile would like to see you in the locker room.”
I went in and there he was, in the middle of the room, with the whole team. He said, “I want you guys to know,” and read the excerpt about the woman running from the player’s hotel room.
“And this is the guy you’re talking to, trusting him?” Francis said looking at me. Then he added: “Go away.”