Oh Baby! J.D. is back.
John Davidson, a beloved Blueshirt behind a goalmask and a Rangers icon behind a microphone, is coming home to take the helm of the franchise he first teamed up with 44 years ago. Davidson on Friday was named the 13th President in Rangers history, taking the handoff from Glen Sather and tasked with carrying the Rangers into a bright new era.
For Davidson, the homecoming opens a fresh chapter in his long and wide-ranging career with the Rangers that began when he arrived on Broadway as a 22-year-old, as part of a five-player trade with St. Louis in the summer of 1975. The big 6-3 netminder became a fast favorite among fans, backstopping the Rangers on their Cinderella run to the 1979 Stanley Cup Final and amassing 93 wins in a Blueshirt before chronic injuries forced an early end to his playing days - and an early start to what would become a Hall of Fame broadcasting career that would make him one of the preeminent figures in his sport.
"I am excited and humbled to be named the President of the New York Rangers," Davidson said on Friday. "The opportunity of rejoining the Rangers organization and returning home to New York, where my family and I have spent so many wonderful years, was one I simply could not pass up. I want to thank James Dolan for offering me this chance to come home."
Davidson rejoins the Rangers after 13 seasons as an NHL executive, the past seven as the only President of Hockey Operations in the history of the Columbus Blue Jackets, whom he shepherded from a last place finish when he took over in 2012, to a team that averaged 47 wins the last three seasons - and pulled off a historic playoff series victory this spring, ousting the record-setting Tampa Bay Lightning in four straight.
It was not the first time that Davidson had taken over a team at the bottom of the league standings and started in motion their rise into playoff contenders. Davidson stepped away from the MSG Network broadcast booth in 2006 to take command of the St. Louis Blues, who, like the Blue Jackets, had finished 30th in the 30-team league prior to Davidson's arrival; in his final season in St. Louis, the Blues went 49-22-11 to win their first division crown in 12 years and begin a run of eight seasons in which they qualified for the playoffs seven times.
Davidson's fingerprints have been all over this spring's Stanley Cup Playoffs, in both conferences, with Columbus sweeping the league's top seed and St. Louis, with numerous holdovers from Davidson's tenure there, currently playing in the West final.
He now takes over a Rangers team that, under first-year coach David Quinn, was the NHL's youngest at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season, signed draft picks Vitali Kravtsov and Igor Shesterkin and trade acquisition Adam Fox earlier this month, and will head to next month's Entry Draft in Vancouver with nine total picks, two of them in the first round.
"Today is the start of a new and exciting chapter in New York Rangers history," MSG Executive Chairman and CEO James Dolan said. "John Davidson is one of the premier executives in the National Hockey League. As we continue to build a team that can consistently compete for the Stanley Cup, John's knowledge of the game and his experience and passion for the Rangers logo make him the ideal choice to oversee our Hockey Operations department. I am thrilled to welcome 'JD' and his family home."
J.D.'s most indelible on-ice moments as a Ranger came during the 1979 playoff ride, when the Blueshirts scored series wins over the Kings and Flyers before knocking off the heavily favored Islanders in six games to play for the Cup. The Rangers' 26-year-old netminder allowed just 13 goals in the six-game upset of the Isles, capped by a 2-1 win at a delirious Madison Square Garden on May 8, 1979.
Folllowing the 1982-83 season, Davidson joined MSG Network for one year, then after a two-year stint with the CBC returned in 1986 - and over the course of the next two decades established himself as the premier TV analyst in the sport, one of the game's most respected voices and one of its most influential figures among those who didn't occupy a bench or an executive suite. In addition to his work behind the MSG mikes, Davidson was entrenched as the nation's lead hockey analyst across the spectrum of U.S. television networks, for whom he called countless games at the Olympics, the World Cup and Stanley Cup finals. In 2004, while still with MSG Network, he received the Lester Patrick Award for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.
It was on those MSG airwaves where he and Sam Rosen forged a 20-year partnership that cemented their places in Rangers history, and carried both men to the Hockey Hall of Fame - each receiving the Foster Hewitt Award, Davidson in 2009 and Rosen seven years later in 2016. And of course, it is where J.D.'s signature "Oh Baby!" became a watchword of Rangers hockey - never more so than in the spring of 1994, when Davidson and Rosen were heard together on nearly every game of the Rangers' march to the Cup, the final season before the national networks grabbed the broadcast rights of the Stanley Cup Final away from local stations.
Now, 13 years after saying goodbye, Davidson is back in New York to write the next chapter in Rangers history. A new chapter, a new era, with an old friend back on Broadway. Oh Baby.
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