UMD’s Will Francis shares he’s cancer free & why he’s redshirting
On Wednesday University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) men’s hockey junior Will Francis announced that he is cancer free, again.
The defenseman has now beaten leukemia twice, but has chosen to redshirt for the rest of this year.
“I feel really good and I feel strong and I’m well conditioned, but I think I still have more to give for this team,” Francis shared. “Ultimately, with only 16 games left plus playoffs, I felt that I didn’t want to rush into something where I wouldn’t be ready to play every night just from a recovery standpoint. Mario Lemieux took a entire two years off after his bout. I was reading that Saku Koivu took an entire year off. I know that I have an extra gear that I had in August that I haven’t got there yet.”
Francis’ first cancer diagnosis came in March of 2020 and he finished chemo in June of 2022. Then, in August 2023 his cancer returned. However he said family, friends and hockey kept his fight alive.
“I was in the hospital for 29 nights, I think to begin August and September, and then like seven to 10 more in October,” Francis recalled, regarding his second bout of leukemia. “I’m at the University of Minnesota, so they have Ridder (Arena) and Mariucci (Arena) running. I’m like, we got to get some ice, I have to find a way to find some ice. I’m getting so bored in here. We were able to hop out at Ridder at like 7 a.m. for the last 20 or so days I was down there. Wasn’t advised upon by the medical staff, but as long as it was just me and my dad they were pretty OK with it.”
Taking the fall off Francis returned to the team for practice, and even skated in last Saturday’s (Jan. 6, 2024) exhibition game against St. Thomas University in St. Paul. Redshirting now he will have two years of collegiate eligibility left.
UMD hosts Colorado College this Friday and Saturday at 7:07 p.m. at AMSOIL Arena.