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John Davidson enjoyed a successful junior hockey career in Calgary and was tabbed as a first round draft choice (fifth overall) in the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft. Only a few months later, Davidson realized a dream, becoming the first goaltender to make the jump directly from junior hockey to the NHL.
After two years between the pipes in St. Louis, the 6-3 netminder was dealt to the New York Rangers. It didn't take long for Davidson to quickly become one of New York's most popular athletes, highlighted when he led the Blueshirts on a remarkable run to the Stanley Cup finals in 1979.
Following a distinguished playing career as an NHL goaltender, J.D. entered the world of broadcasting and quickly developed a work ethic and enthusiastic style that put him among the elite broadcasters in the industry. Since 1983-84, he has worked for virtually every major television outlet that has carried hockey in the United States and Canada. Besides his always-incisive analyses, he is probably most identified with his long-time MSG Network broadcast partner, play-by-play man Sam Rosen.
On March 16, 2004, Davidson was honored in New York with one of hockey's most prestigious awards, the Lester Patrick Trophy for "outstanding service to hockey in the United States."
With the 2005 NHL Entry Draft scheduled for Saturday, July 30 (noon, ET) at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa, newyorkrangers.com caught up with J.D., who took some time to reflect on his own Draft Day experiences.
I think when you play youth hockey - whether its junior hockey in Canada or college or whatever it is - and you have a chance to be drafted, when your year comes up, its exciting. You've given it everything you've had for years, then you have a chance to become associated with an NHL team, so its pretty cool.
My draft year was in 1973. That year, the draft was held in the city of Montreal. I was from Calgary and it was the first time I had ever been there. I'll never forget it - It was really exciting to think of what was going to happen. That was the year that the Islanders took Denis Potvin with the number one pick - he was a shoe-in to go number one and rightly so. I was drafted number five in the first round. I had expected to go to the Boston Bruins. That was the rumor that everyone was talking about. But Montreal made a trade and St. Louis was able to move one ahead of Boston. The reason being, Montreal didn't want me in Boston so they wanted someone else to take me and St. Louis did, so I was drafted number five. It was a fascinating day. It was exciting just being around that hockey world. Even though I was just 19 years old, my life's work culminated at that time with being picked by an NHL squad. So that was a lot of fun.
I was expected to go in the first round. I was lucky. I didn't have to sit there and be passed by. I was fifth - that was pretty early in the draft, but I was just thrilled to be drafted, let alone in the first round. I had a lot of other friends who I had played on a junior team with that were there too and some of them were drafted - one in the third round, one in the fifth round and one of them wasn't drafted ... actually they made a deal late in the day and Minnesota drafted him in the last round. I think it was a favor to our coach and general manager so this player wouldn't feel left out. And it was a tough time for him because he thought he was going to be a third rounder and he ended up going in the last round. That was a real low point for him and we all felt part of that. It was a tough time. With the scouting that goes on these days, I think most people have in their mind where they might be drafted - if they are going to get drafted. It's tough when you are not picked and it is really good when you are.
I went to the draft on my own. In those days, it was an expensive trip to go all the way to Montreal from Calgary. My mother and my father were in Western Canada at the time and waiting to see what happened. Back in those early '70s, the draft wasn't quite as big as it is now. It was big. It was important. We all knew it was important, but it didn't have the national flavor it does these days. Today it has gotten bigger and bigger. There are kids now from all over the world that are eligible for the draft - you're talking about Russia, you're talking about Finland and Sweden and now there are kids in Germany. These days there are even youth hockey programs in Japan, so it's all over the place. And the U.S. youth hockey is really booming. I think in the next few years, you're going to see a lot of kids from the U.S. drafted. There is so much youth hockey being played in Texas and California and Florida and all over the place (not to mention the traditional places like Connecticut, Minnesota and Massachusetts). In fact, this year there is going to be a kid out of Philadelphia going in the first round by the name of Bobby Ryan. It's going to be great!