“Who is John Davidson?” is a straightforward enough question, but there are multiple correct answers.
I pose the question because the news of him rejoining the franchise spawned a good amount of joy and excitement online, but it also resulted in some bewildered fans asking, “why are we getting this excited over John Davidson?”
There are fans who have no idea about a commercial which saw J.D.’s tie get snipped in half by Bobby Granger to signify the loss of “ties” after the shootout was introduced coming out of the 2004-05 lockout.
Working on a story and I wanna embed this clip, so enjoy a classic moment involving J.D. pic.twitter.com/BDZ26Z4ZkY— Tom ████ Jr. (@TomUrtzJr) May 18, 2019
Heck, there are fans who have no idea who the heck Bobby Granger is. For those who don’t know, and as a fun reminder for those who do; enjoy this montage of clips.
This story isn’t going to get into the nuts and bolts of the matter or extrapolate on the job he’s stepping into. Naturally that will be another story in the name of generating #content in somewhat of a lull in the hockey schedule.
Instead, we’re going to talk about who John Davidson is and what he means to this team.
When it comes to Davidson, he was and always will be “J.D.” to me. I was born in September of 1992, so I was a wee child when the Blueshirts lifted the Stanley Cup in 1994 and snapped a 54-year drought that stretched all the way back to 1940.
To me, J.D. was Sam Rosen’s color man, a larger than life figure who taught me a lot about hockey, and made sure to share stories and facts about the game and opposing players in a way that Pierre McGuire wish he could.
J.D. was also broadcaster who made multiple appearances on national broadcasts whether it be for the All-Star Game, Olympics, or Stanley Cup Playoffs and Final. I grew up during the dark ages, and while there wasn’t a lot to celebrate on the Rangers, I always got a kick whenever J.D. was calling other games. What I love about sports is that even though there’s generally turnover year in and year out on the roster, the announcers are generally the same. From the moment I started watching the team until the start of the 2006-07 season, it was always Sam and J.D.
And over the years there were a lot of memorable moments, many of which were punctuated by J.D.’s infamous “Oh, baby!” One of the most memorable moments surrounding J.D. didn’t involve Sam because I’m pretty sure it was a game which conflicted with his Sunday NFL coverage, and I’m pretty sure you all know what it is going to be.
I think that it’s fair to say that older fans share my experience of knowing J.D. as a color commentator, but their overall relationship with him goes further than that. This era of fan most likely remembers J.D. and his famous goaltender’s school.
And there’s a good chance they remember his Miller Lite commercial.
But we can go even further back. Before J.D. stepped into the booth in 1983, he was an NHL goaltender for 10 seasons — eight of which came on Broadway — and it was during those years that he became a fan favorite and one of the team’s legends for that era. It wasn’t easy at first, as Davidson had the tough task of replacing NHL legend Eddie Giacomin as the team’s starter; a player who had such an impact on Broadway that he was the second player to have his number retired by the franchise.
During Davidson’s Ranger career, which unfortunately was derailed by injuries by age 29, he strapped on the pads for 222 games; he posted a record of 93-90-25 with a .884 save percentage and a 3.58 goals against average. The game was drastically different back then, and fans of that era don’t pay much mind to goalie statistics.
What fans remember is Davidson being a stalwart in goal in consecutive playoff runs during the 1978-79 and 1979-80 seasons. The first run saw J.D., on an injured knee, take the Blueshirts to the Stanley Cup Final against the Montreal Canadiens.
Davidson was spectacular for the Rangers during that run, and he posted a record of 11-7 with a .922 SV% and a 2.28 GAA. The Blueshirts fell the Canadiens in the series 4-1, and by the looks of it the team just couldn’t score. During the series Ken Dryden posted a line featuring a 2.30 GAA and a .883 SV%. Davidson’s line saw a 3.71 G.A.A and a .882 SV%, but he was playing on an injured knee.
The series saw Jacques Lemaire, Yvon Lambert, Steve Shutt, Bob Gainey, and Rejean Houle average a point per game or more for the Habs, and the Blueshirts’ scoring leaders saw an age 36 Phil Esposito, Anders Hedberg, Pat Hickey, and Dave Maloney tally three points in five games.
The following season the Blueshirts appeared in nine playoff games, and Davidson went 4-5 with a 2.33 GAA and a .927 SV%. Davidson would appear in just one more playoff game, during the 1981-82 season, and he retired after appearing in just two regular season games during the 1982-83 campaign.
The above is just a short glimpse of J.D.; the man, the legend, and now the President of the New York Rangers.
It is fair to quibble and question the team’s process, and the fact that they hired a former player and broadcaster, but make no mistake — this isn’t like the Edmonton Oilers just handing a job in the front office to someone who was on one of their dynasty teams, or someone living off their last name.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the hire was a surreal one, because never in my wildest dreams watching hockey in the late 90s and early 2000s did I think the person calling the games of my favorite team would one day be calling the shots and shaping the overall direction of the team.
In many ways his hire is one that plays on nostalgia as a service to the fan, but as we will get into in other articles in the coming weeks, he is more than qualified for the job. And based on his history as an executive to date, he’s coming to New York motivated by unfinished business.
Stats via Hockey-Reference.