But that was Emile’s way, and it was always 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 my infant daughter. Francis told the person at the front desk to put us in a room at the back of the hotel — he did not want a woman at training camp. Too distracting.
I was so fascinated with the game — and with him — that I wrote a book called “A Year on Ice,” which chronicled the roller-coaster 1969-70 season (and, I’m proud to say, was just made into a fictionalized film). To add what I thought at the time was total honesty, I included a paragraph that described a woman running out of a player’s hotel room in tears. That was it. A few sentences.
Just about the time the book came out, Francis was embroiled in contract battles with some of his stars. He suspended Brad Park, Jean Ratelle, Vic Hadfield and Walt Tkaczuk because they refused to play an exhibition in training camp without contracts. It was the beginning of players fighting for their rights in hockey. I wrote extensively about their demands, and Francis wasn’t happy.
It was all resolved after bitter battles. Then, a few weeks after the book was published, at Skateland, the team’s practice rink in New Hyde Park, N.Y., the trainer told me, “Emile would like to see you in the locker room.”
I walked in and there he was, in the middle of the room, with the entire team. He said, “I want you guys to hear this,” and he read the excerpt about the woman running out of the player’s hotel room.
“And this is the guy you’re talking to, trusting him?” Francis said, looking at me. Then he added, “Get out.”