Cody Franson enjoys returning to the city where he started his NHL career. On Thursday night, the Sicamous, British Columbia, native played in Nashville for just the second time since joining the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“Nashville was great to me, I had a lot of fun here,” Franson said, adding, “There’s definitely a lot of memories and history here for me. It’s a lot of fun coming in and playing these guys now.”
Over two seasons with the Predators, the 26-year-old played 141 games, recording 14 goals and 36 assists for a total of 50 points.
But in July of 2011, the blue liner got traded with Matthew Lombardi to Toronto in exchange for Brett Lebda and Robert Slaney. The move, which was more of a way to get rid of Lombardi’s contract, came as a surprise to Franson.
“I definitely didn’t expect it,” Franson reminisced, as he was at former Predators goaltender Mark Dekanich’s wedding. “The day after, my phone rang at about 10 o’clock and it was Mr. Poile. It was a shock, but that’s a part of the game. It’s a business and they had to do what they had to do.
“You try not to get too attached to things because there is that possibility of change at any given moment. They did what they had to do and fortunately for me it was a place that I always dreamed of playing. There are two ways of looking at it,” he said.
But it is hard not to get attached to a place or a team when you are playing hockey with a close family friend. Franson grew up in the same neighborhood as Nashville captain Shea Weber.
“We grew up together. His younger brother, Brandon, is my age so I played all my minor hockey with him. Our families are very close friends. We’ve known each other our whole lives and grew up together, so we’re definitely good friends,” Franson said.
Franson also noted that he always wanted the same things that Weber was doing, so it was a natural fit to look up to Weber.
“He went and played for the Kelowna Rockets when I wanted to play in the WHL. He played in the World Juniors when I wanted to play in the World Juniors. He was always doing the same exact thing I wanted to do and was always a guy I could talk to about those things when it came time for me to be able to do that kind of stuff. He’s always been there for me, he’s a great friend, he took me under his wing when I first started. I can’t thank him enough for that.
“From a small town like Sicamous, it’s not every day you get to play in the NHL with somebody from the same town. We really enjoyed it when I was still here. It’s something I’ll never forget and I’m sure he thinks the same way,” he said.
The two defensemen even host a charity golf event in their hometown called the Weber/Franson Annual Golf Classic. This past July, proceeds raised from the event were donated to the British Columbia Cancer Foundation.
Franson has had his struggles in Toronto from being benched early in his tenure with the Leafs under former coach Ron Wilson to contract negotiations being dragged out this past offseason. Franson eventually signed a one-year deal worth $2 million. He will be a restricted free agent in the summer.
The offensive-minded defenseman has started this season playing, for the most part, alongside rookie Morgan Reilly and is averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game. Franson left the 4-0 Maple Leafs win over the Predators on Thursday when, late in the third period, Mike Fisher hit him from behind. Franson ended up with a broken nose and stiches to his face.
The extent of the injury is not yet known, but Franson is hoping to play on Saturday night against the Edmonton Oilers.