John Davidson, the Rangers' longtime TV analyst on MSG Network, announced that he is leaving his position of the past 20 years to become the new President of the St. Louis Blues.
Known affectionately to generations of Blueshirts fans as "J.D," Davidson was offered the position by the Blues' new owner, Dave Checketts, whose bid to purchase the team from owners Bill and Nancy Laurie was unanimously approved by the NHL Board of Governors last week and finalized on Friday. Checketts and Davidson previously worked together when Checketts was Madison Square Garden's president and chief executive officer.
For Davidson, the return to the Blues organization brings his 33-year association with the NHL full circle. He broke into the league as St. Louis' first-round choice in the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft and went on to become the first goalies in NHL history to jump directly from major junior hockey to the NHL. He spent his first two NHL seasons in goal for the Blues before being traded to the Rangers on June 18, 1975.
With the exception of a two-year stint with Hockey Night in Canada
and his hometown Calgary Flames, Davidson had remained part of the Rangers organization ever since arriving in New York 31 years ago
Over eight seasons as a Rangers goaltender from 1975 to 1983, Davidson played in 222 games. His greatest moment with the Blueshirts came in the 1979 Stanley Cup semifinals against the New York Islanders, when he led the Rangers to an upset victory in six games. Despite playing with a knee injury during the team's loss to Montreal in the Stanley Cup Finals, Davidson finished the 1979 playoffs as the NHL's leader in games played by a goaltender (18) and shutouts (1).
But it was as a broadcaster that J.D. left his greatest mark on the organization, taking on that role as early as the 1982-83 season, when he worked in the broadcast booth while sitting out with a career-ending back injury. Following his retirement as a player in 1983, Davidson took his first full-time broadcasting job with the Rangers and served as an analyst during the 1983-84 season. His work in New York drew the attention of Hockey Night in Canada, which hired him as a commentator for the next two years before his return to the Rangers in 1986.
It didn't take long for Davidson and his signature "Oh, Baby!" to win a following. The Oct. 24, 1986 edition of The Hockey News
featured a cover photo of J.D. with the headline "Nobody Does it Better." In the story, then-Hockey News Editor Bob McKenzie wrote: "With all due respect to the plethora of ex-hockey jocks who have moved into the broadcast booth, there isn't one who has made a quicker or better transition than big J.D."
Known for his preparation and ability to explain subtle facets of the game, Davidson earned acclaim at every level of broadcasting. He worked nationally televised regular-season games, the Stanley Cup playoffs, NHL All-Star Games and the Olympics in addition to his role with MSG Network. He was in the booth on the night of June 14, 1994, when the Rangers ended a 54-year Stanley Cup drought, and along with play-by-play man Sam Rosen, was a witness to every piece of Rangers history over the past 20 years.
In April 1999, it was Davidson who broke the story that Wayne Gretzky was retiring from the NHL. Gretzky's decision to confide in Davidson was evidence of the respect players held for the Rangers broadcaster.
Only one other NHL team's TV analyst, Detroit's Mickey Redmond, has been working at his current job longer than Davidson, who leaves his post as the longest-serving TV analyst in Rangers history.
There were also memorable moments outside the booth. Davidson served as the emcee for the 1991 pre-game ceremony in which new arrival Mark Messier was named team captain, and he was also the emcee for last January's Messier Night event, when the No. 11 was sent to the rafters.
As far back as that 1986 Hockey News
article, there were suggestions that one day Davidson would leave the broadcasting world to become an NHL team executive. Generations of Rangers fans, some who have never known another TV analyst, are fortunate that Davidson stayed with the Blueshirts for another 20 years.