Cody Franson knows what it means for a kid to be taught what you love by someone you look up to.
It’s safe to say that all attending the Sicamous Hockey School this season look up to the towering 6’5” Franson, both physically and figuratively.
Franson, currently a blueliner with the Toronto Maple Leafs, was back in his hometown last week to once again help out as a guest instructor with the school, along with former Nashville Predator’s teammate Shea Weber, and fellow Sicamous product Kris Beech.
When he wasn’t on the ice helping the kids out, Franson was happily signing whatever young fans threw his way (as well as giving the odd hug).
“When I was going through camps and stuff as a kid, there were things that I never forgot, certain people showed up to camps who made my day back then, and it was a good memory that I have,” say Franson who attended the school from age five to about 14. During that time, Franson had an opportunity to learn from a family hockey hero, Ron Flockhart.
“I know he played for the Philadelphia Flyers, which was my dad’s favourite team, so having him there as an instructor when I was a real little guy was unbelievable,” says Franson. “Even though Ron’s a close family friend of ours now, I was little at the time so it was awesome. So I hope these kids get the same thing.”
Over the past nine years, Franson has steadily built himself a reputation as a solid, puck-moving defenceman in the Western Hockey League with the Vancouver Giants (2002-07), the American Hockey League’s Milwaukee Admirals (2007-10) and in the NHL with the Nashville Predators. He helped the Giants capture the President’s Cup in 2006 and the Memorial Cup in 2007 – the same year he helped Canada’s World Junior Championship team capture gold in Sweden. In the recent Stanley Cup playoffs, Franson posted one goal and five assists in 12 games. Throughout this time, Franson has kept coming back to the Sicamous Hockey School, never forgetting his roots and the important role he can play in a kid’s development.
“I’m 24 now, so I’ve been here nine years as an instructor,” says Franson. “It’s good. I grew up here. This is where I get a chance to give back and try and help the kids out a little bit. Playing in the NHL, you don’t get to come back in the winter at all to try and help the kids through the season, and try and give them pointers here and there, so it’s really the only time me and Shea get a chance to give back to the community in that aspect.”
Asked about recently being traded to the Leafs, said neither he nor his agents saw it coming, but being a fan of the Leafs since childhood, he’s enthusiastic about the move.
“I’d never been traded before so it was a totally different feeling and experience for me,” says Franson. “After it sunk in, and I started talking to some of the Maple Leaf personnel, I started to get comfortable with it then really excited about it. Toronto was my favourite team growing up. It’s kind of a dream come true, if you will. Me and my uncle have been diehard leafs fans since I was a kid.”
Regarding Shea Weber’s recent salary arbitration decision, Franson suggested the $7.5 million his close friend will receive next season may still not be an accurate reflection of his worth.
“I still think he might be underpaid at that price…,” says Franson. “I’m biased, maybe because he’s a good friend of mine and I’ve known him for a long time, and I think very highly of him. I think if you go around the league, there’s probably 20 other teams that would have paid him that dollar, if not more. I don’t think you can say a guy is overpaid or not worth that when there’s that much want for him out there.”
On Wednesday evening, Franson was in Salmon Arm to play in the Eighth Annual Pro-Am Scholarship Hockey Game at the Sunwave Centre. This wasn’t the first time Franson has lent his talent to the good cause. He says his connection to the annual event, and to Salmon Arm in general, stems from the extended hockey family he’s made through his father Cal.
“All my dad’s buddies and stuff who he played hockey with as a kid, a lot of them are from Salmon Arm,” says Franson. “Tom Marsh, Terrance Head, my dad still plays hockey with those guys every Tuesday. I grew up in the dressing room, I grew up around all those guys, so those guys are my ties, they’re good family friends of ours and people I’ve known my whole life.”