Recap: John Davidson’s intro press conference

The Rangers introduced John Davidson on Wednesday at a press conference on MSG that also featured James Dolan, Glen Sather, Jeff Gorton and David Quinn:

  • James Dolan: “I am excited to be here to welcome one of the premier execs in the NHL back to the Rangers family. JD has returned home. His knowledge of the game, experience and passion for the Rangers made him the ideal choice to lead the team. I do want to talk about Glen Sather for a minute. Thank you Glen for all you have done in the past 19-years. He is one of the most successful executives in Rangers franchise history. For me, he has been the perfect executive and leaves me with very little to do with the Rangers. I sign the checks and cheers the team and that is just the way I like it by the way. John brings a discipline of being both a player and executive and has been very successful in both. We also get the added benefit of being a damn good on-air guy. We are very pleased to bring him back into the fold and back into the Rangers family as President of the Rangers.”
  • John Davidson: “Dreams do come true. It’s an emotional time for sure and a great time for myself and my family. I want to thank Jim Dolan for this incredible opportunity to come home and lead the Rangers. I want to thank Glen Sather, he is a friend, former teammate and I look forward to leaning on Glen and the experience he has built up in his career in the NHL. It’s no secret that NY has always held a very special place in my heart. This is the only organization I ever would have left Columbus for. I would like to thank the Blue Jackets, Columbus is a great city and I wish them the best. The Blues were very good to us and it looks like it will be a great series in the Stanley Cup Final. After meeting with Jim last week it became clear that we shared the same vision. I want to continue what was started here and that is to build the Rangers into perennial Stanley Cup contenders. They are doing it the right way. Jim wants to win but wants to do it right and we are on the same page. Jeff Gorton and his staff have worked very hard over the last two-years to build the foundation. It puts us in a great position to be aggressive as we look to improve. Being in the same division as the Rangers over the last 6+ years, I watched a lot of Ranger games, Sam, Joe and Al, what became noticeable in watching those games is what has already been established and that is the identity that NYers love. A team that works, plays hard and plays the right way and I credit David Quinn and his staff for doing exactly that. We will continue to improve in that area, I can’t tell you how important it is to have the proper kind of culture to win hockey games and they have certainly done a terrific job in creating that already. There is a lot of work to do here, there are no shortcuts, there is nothing but hard work and it takes patience and resolve and I want to make sure I use the word patience and resolve because we are going to be in a battle to get this club better but you have to be patient when you go through a build like this. I’ve had the great opportunity to do it twice, we have a great staff here, already many young pieces in place that are going to be stars in the NHL and the Rangers are going to be better for it. For me, yes, dreams come true.
  • On what drove him to take this position, “when you get into a situation where you know the goal and have a plan in place, that is what you live for. When you talk to Jim, it’s what we wants. He wants to stay with the plan and has all the resources to help us become a championship hockey club. NY is special, there is only one NY. I remember coming here as a player and it was hard at first. Once you figure it out and it gets in your blood it stays forever and it’s a special place to win and that is what we plan on doing.”
  • What makes this special for you, “NY Rangers, original six team, I saw what it was like in 79 when we got to the finals and did not win. I saw what it was like in 1994 when Mark and people like Brian and Adam, what it took and what this City did when they won the championship, that was a very special time in my life. I’ve lived here previously for 28-years, raised two daughters, I became a NYer, it’s always been in my blood. For All of those reasons, you get your ledger sheet out and you have an opportunity and it all checks on one side, it’s a very special opportunity for me and my family to get back to a place and we were walking the streets last night and my wife said that doesn’t it feel like we didn’t leave and I said yea, it feels like we never left. It’s a special place.”
  • (To Jeff Gorton) How does JD’s experience help things,  “It’s going to be a huge benefit, he’s done everything in hockey and his even keel way about it, it will be a great asset for us as we go through this process, no question about it.”
  • How different is this job than the prior two, “When I went to St. Louis I was pretty green, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into but I knew I needed a change. I had worked here so long and been involved with the network and it’s as good as it gets, MSG network was fantastic to me and I had an opportunity to go to St. Louis and take a different step and I talked to the family and we jumped in. It became a labor of love, what we had to do to re-establish a franchise, find ways to make deals to get picks. We traded Keith Tkachuk to get a first rounder and he’d come back and we’d trade him again for another first rounder. We were trying what we could to build a franchise. The Blues, at that time, it was in rough shape because they didn’t know if the team was staying and with our group we were able to re-establish but it was hard and it took patience. I pull for them to do well now because a good number of those players are ones we were part of drafting. Larry Pleau, who was assistant GM in 1994, and you work and work and get young people in and try to get them to be as good as possible. I learned a lot, moved over to Columbus, they were in better shape but it’s still hockey and a rink and puck and trying to win and do a magnificent job drafting. I am very happy with what we did in that respect and we had to develop players and it’s a process and everybody is different with mindset and culture. With that experience, coming here, this team has already had some terrific picks and when I look at what Glen and the group are doing with the training center, it’s world class. It was world class and now they are re-doing it to make it better. Jim said to me, whatever you need you are going to get, try to do it and go get it. I was so happy to here that because that is the attitude you need to have when trying to build a team here in NY.”
  • How do you balance the rebuild with trying to be successful, “just by doing it right. This is not a perfect business, there are always mistakes to be made but you do your research and homework and try to make as many proper decisions as possible whether it’s through the draft or trades. You try to develop and get young players in the offseason to learn how to train, how to play hockey in NY, if you do it right you can do it for a long period of time. A lot of the foundation here is being built already, it’s important to stay with your plan. You build a foundation and keep getting better and better and do a great job with scouting and training and there are no real secrets to it, no magic wallet. You can’t reach into a blender and pull out a real good hockey team, you have to build it and steel with your resolve to do it the right way.”
  • On the arc of your career and 1979 run, “many great memories of being back in NY, I get to hook up with a lot of those players. We had a great group. The thing I remember mostly about that was how NY reacted to our club. We went into the playoffs, had a shoulder injury, wasn’t sure if I was going to be ready or not. The first game was home against LA, Charlie Simmer came down, went around me and had an open net and hits the goal post. If that goes in I don’t know what would happen. Maybe lady luck was there and sure enough we got on a role with a bunch of young players, some experience with Phil Espositio and Carol Vandnais. The feeling of what NY gave back to us, I’d wake up in the morning in Westchester and there would gifts on our doorsteps, people I didn’t know, they were just so happy we were on a run. The Isles series was a great series, a wonderful experience, great memories.”
  • “I want our staff to be a staff that is together, have individual opinions but be on our team. I want hard work, this what they do, they scour the world to try and find the proper talent to help us find the proper talent to help us become a better hockey club quicker. The NHL has become younger and with that said it should make the timing of things not take the 7-8-9 year run it used to take in this league, it can be done because of the youth, they play international hockey at young ages, compete and understand and have great coaching and nutrition, more prepared than they used to be, we just have to get the right ones and get them here and get them ready to be great Rangers.”

Davidson then spoke with Bill Pidto on MSG and said,

  • “It feels great, it’s a little surreal. I have great memories of St. Louis and Columbus but when you sit with your family and try to analyze things you know you made the right decision. There is only one NY in the world, I was here 28-years, I’m excited as I could possibly be and ready to get to work.”
  • What is your vision, “You have to build a foundation and there are only ways to do it and that is with the draft and development and making good deals and they are already in the middle of it. The biggest key for people to understand is that to build where you want to go, sports aren’t perfect, there are wonderful ups, some downs and I will have to be the one who is patience with this thing. I’ve been through it and I know and patience is a lot of what I am charged with and then it’s rolling up sleeves and getting to work and doing the every aspect done to the best of your ability.”
  • On #2, “I know there are two good ones there so it’s a heck of start for me with Hughes and Kakko, we will see what New Jersey does and we will have a big smile on our face.”

Jeff Gorton spoke with PIdto and said:





  • On adding JD, “when you bring in someone like JD and with this history and some of the things he has done in the game, it really fits well with where we need to go and we are all excited to get him here.”
  • On the young players being added, “it’s exciting for everybody, the fans should be excited, we are excited with the players we are adding to the team and to the franchise to get them going and put themselves in good situations to make the team. It’s been a whirlwind but exciting time, we are looking forward to it.”
  • On being at the Worlds, “there are some special players, spent some time with the US and Jack Hughes and what he can do. Really exciting to see what he can do and Kakko is having an amazing tournament. Any time you can see players in that stage and anyone that can have success at that age is an incredible talent.”
  • What is next, “next up is the combine and spend a week up there and interview players and watch workouts. We have some unsigned players to talk about, we will go over with JD some of the things we talked about it over the last month and get him up to speed so we can hit the ground running.”

David Quinn spoke with Pidto and said:

  • On adding JD, “we get the best of both worlds. Glen has been such an important part of the organization for a long time. Even with him stepping aside but is still going to be around and we can lean on him like JD alluded to and the fact that JD has been through this twice. He will be a great resource for Jeff and has great clarity for what we want to do and it feels really good today.”
  • On training camp, “It’s going to be fun, the one thing that motivates a player more than anything is competition and we will certainly have it in all positions. We are excited to have our core come back and all the new players and giving them an opportunity to make the team and make the next step.”
  • What is your role moving forward, “They ask my opinion on what we are looking for but our staff has done a phenomenal job over the last two years in taking the picks and assets Jeff has accumulated and I am there if they want to ask a player that I have a background with and where we see he might fit in. Our guys do a great job and I am just there for a resource.”

John Davidson was later a guest on ESPN Radio and said:

  • Why is this job important, “it’s NY, it’s the Rangers. I was here 28-years, I think I know what I am getting myself into. I’m up to my butt in alligators but that is okay. I left here 13-years ago to go to St. Louis and worked with a great staff and tried to rebuild that team and then moved onto Columbus and sometimes it just fits. Columbus is a very special place, that place doesn’t change much, we were really enjoying ourselves there and then all of a sudden, in a very short period of time, this thing pops up with Glen Sather stepping down and you start thinking of pros and cons and everything is pro, there are no negatives to this. I am very lucky in that leaving Columbus and those people have all been good to me, I’m leaving on my terms but they are wishing me well, not when the two teams play but wishing myself and family all the best. It’s a great place and I’m excited as can be to be in New York.”
  • On John Tortorella, “I love Torts, he came in, I knew him from my time here and he won the Cup with Tampa and we needed help in a lot of ways and he was the right guy to get in there and help change the locker room culture, hand things to young players and all the things you have to go through. The locker room belongs to players and if it doesn’t then it means the coaches are intervening, sometimes they need to help but now Torts has finished that work and they are in a good spot.”
  • When did this start with the Rangers, “When Glen stepped down and the good folks here decided to go through all the names and that and my name was there. I had talked to Columbus that a Ranger job was the only job I would ever leave for, sure enough it popped up. I had a great relationship with management above me, ownership and we were all on the same page. This wasn’t a guy leaving in the middle of the night, this was something that if it became a possibility it could happen and sure enough it happened. I’m ecstatic to be here.”
  • What is your relationship with Jim Dolan, “I didn’t know Jim very well, I knew about him, read a lot and things but I never would have taken this job if I didn’t feel comfortable regarding that. I came quietly into NY, maybe two weeks ago – I don’t even know now, and sat with Jim for 2-3 hours and went through everything, from A-Z. The man wants to win, he wants to give us as a group everything we need as a group resource-wise to become a winner. That is all you can ask for. We also talked a lot about what the Rangers have done here and being transparent and telling everybody they were going to go through this. It’s a hard thing to do and I went through it in St. Louis. I was pretty green, learned a lot, some of it the hard way, tutored a little bit by Larry Pleau, who was the assistant GM with the Rangers in 1994 and I’ll never ever forget what he did. They didn’t know if the Blues were going to stay in St. Louis, we helped re-establish the franchise, made a lot of good choices, some others, and I wish them well against a really good Boston team.”
  • On patience, “people are going to be impatient because it’s NY sports and that is natural and I understand that but I also understand that you have to have resolve and patience at the right level and go through rebuild. If you do it the right way and build a foundation, in Columbus I called it a brick at a time and that is what we did. You make a trade, draft pick, do this and that and you fit them in and if it doesn’t you do something else but that foundation should be there for a while.”
  • What is the challenge of coming in while the rebuild has been going on, “I don’t know if it’s a challenge. I’ve gone through two franchises in 13-years doing exactly that. St. Louis was at the very bottom of the league, couldn’t go any lower, they got rid of some terrific players like Chris Pronger. We were begging for a goalie in August just to get a goalie, that is just part of it. Columbus wasn’t as low as St. Louis because they had some parts like Bobrovsky but we still had to go through that whole thing of finding and developing players, culture, Torts helped with that. I also brought in Jarmo Kekalien to be our GM. I think that doing it twice already has given me somewhat of an advantage to work with these people and have the experience of doing that.”
  • On inheriting Jeff Gorton and David Quinn, “when I talked to Jim Dolan, I can do what I want to do. I am not one to walk in with a hand grenade and blow things up. I want to see how people work but I will say that since I’ve left here I have watched a lot of Rangers games because of my association with Sam Rosen and the network, still have a ton of friends over there and they do a great job, when I saw how they went to this game plan and how coach Quinn had these people work last year, I think the culture is going in the right direction. I will try to be helpful and analyze everything and if we make changes, and I’m not talking about coaches and GMs, but helping in various areas all the way through, that includes analytics and data and everything from A-Z and I have to look at it and that is the only way we are going to get better.”
  • Do you have a relationship with Gorton, “I knew Jeff, talked to him a number of times. I was only two hours from Plymouth, Michigan and that is the home of the US program and a lot of tournaments and I would always go to them and he would always go and we would always say hello. What you do at those things, as someone running a franchise, you see who is there and who is not and who is working, who is there to shake hands and gab. He was always there and I also know that he made some pretty prominent moves with Boston before he got to the Rangers, I respect what he has done.”
  • What does being President truly mean, “I’m a hands-on guy, I want to know everything we are doing in our organization. Everything. Where scouts are going, who they are going to see and all that stuff and then communicate with Jeff and Chris Drury who runs Hartford. Chris is coming back from the Worlds and the US team and I like that he did that, win or lose you see all the players on every team, get to know new coaches, you act like a sponge. I’ll have thoughts and ideas. I know I want people to know their seat on the bus. When you are the GM you are GM, assistant GM, scout, do your jobs and we will figure it all out. I think I can help in a lot of different ways because of what I have gone through, even as a player and broadcaster and knowing and having connections over the world in our game. I can call people and give that info to our GM, etc. I don’t want to sit in a rocking chair, I want to be hands on and work. Our league is so damn close, the parity is insane. We didn’t get in with Columbus until the second to last night of the year, here in NY, Rangers scored with six seconds left to tie and almost had a heart attack and then we won in a shootout and our club was within a hair of beating Boston in Game 6, I wish it went seven because that series deserved it.”
  • How active do you expect to be in free agency, “I think it has to make sense, it does, if you are going to bring in an older free agent and give him a long-term contract when your team isn’t ready for it it’s not good for him or you. If you can find a way to look at players that are not that old and fit the needs you have and have the character you are looking for, that are not beat up physically, some are, some have been around the block and come in with a bad knee or bad back, you have to do a lot of that research and do something that makes a lot of sense and not get ahead of yourself. The league is a lot younger than it used to be and so I don’t think it takes quite as long as it used to to rebuild a franchise but you have to do the leg work and roll up your sleeves and find the right guys. An example would be Kravtsov, he came in, I think yesterday, and will be here the duration and will learn the language and I like that. He’s going to work with people that can work with conditioning, nutrition, there is a guy that seems pretty darn committed. That is the type of stuff you want.”
  • On picking #2, “this is going to be win-win for both teams. Whatever happens across the river, they do and we will take care of business on our side. Different types of players, Kakko is bigger forward and Hughes is not quite as big but faster and a little bit more dynamic, both are terrific talents and game changers. They are going to make an imprint on hockey in this area.”
  • On Henrik Lundqvist’s future, “he’s playing very well at the Worlds right now, I’ve watched quite a few of the Sweden games. He has never really had injuries where you worry about his back or knees or hips going so that has been a real plus. Ultimate pro as far as how he trains and gets himself ready. I will find time for sure to have a good solid talk with Hank about what we think we are and where we are going, what he wants to do. I know there is a huge commitment by the club to him because there is respect there and there should be. We will get on the same page, whatever that is, I don’t know yet but I’d love to see him come back and play 50 games, win 30+ of them and it would be awesome but we need to get on the same page with all that stuff with where we are.”
  • On Glen Sather’s future, “Glen is a friend of mine, we were teammates in the early 70s in St. Louis, he conned me into buying a place that was his, he did a good job, he’s a good businessman, I was 19 at the time. There is a lot of experience there. He won’t be around all the time but I’m going to lean on him for sure, I have a lot of respect for what he did. When I went back to Canada after I retired here I broadcasted Flames and Oilers games and that was as good as it gets with Gretzky and Messier and then Calgary builds a team to beat them, that was a phenomenal. Glen has all that experience, I’d be foolish not to lean on him.”
  • Will you involve Mark Messier, “I don’t know, I will talk to Mark, he is a friend too. I’d like to pick his brain and see what his thoughts are. I have a great deal of respect, how could you not have respect for Mark Messier? He stared down adversity in NY, I was with him in Edmonton, I consider him a friend and I have a lot of respect for him.”