Hockey Ops President John Davidson continues to evolve personally and professionally with the Blue Jackets.

Hockey Ops President John Davidson continues to evolve personally and professionally with the Blue Jackets.

John Davidson is a master of self-reinvention. He's moved from the ice to the broadcast booth and, finally, the executive suite.

Sitting at his desk, his Blue Jackets windbreaker reflects a relaxeddemeanor as he waits for his NHL team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, to take the ice for practice.

"It's a great city," says Davidson, born and raised in Canada, as he takes in the view of Huntington Park just across the street. "Dynamic."

Three years ago, it was a much a different story for the Blue Jackets' president of hockey operations. He and the St. Louis Blues parted ways following a change in ownership. Davidson was 59 years old and unsure of his future.

"I didn't know what I was going to do," says Davidson, who had, to that point, survived a 40-year career in the NHL by quickly reinventing himself from one role to the next-goalie, then broadcaster, and finally, in 2006, the president of hockey operations with the Blues.

But in 2012, Davidson had to make a move. Could he reinvent himself again?

"It all started as a player," says the former NHL goalie. "When you play the game and you're trying to become an NHL player, it's your own inner driver, your sense of competition (that moves you forward), but it's also the people who help you along the way."

Davidson was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in 1973. After two years with the Blues, he joined the New York Rangers in 1975. He played eight seasons in New York, leading the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals in the 1978-79 season. He was forced to retire in 1983.

"I had a great run, but I got derailed with injuries at 29 years of age," says Davidson, who had married his wife, Diana, while an NHL goalie. "(I was thinking), I'm 29, I'm married, I don't have a family yet, but I'm going to-I've got to do things right. So, I had to try to figure out how I was going to stay in the league."

Davidson laughs when he recalls how he made the jump from player to broadcasting.

"I didn't know what the hell I was doing," says Davidson. "I had no idea. My very first interview was with (NHL executive) Bill Torrey, and my hand was shaking so bad I thought I was going to chip his teeth."

Davidson watched NHL games on TV, he says, "to do my homework to (learn how to) broadcast."

Davidson's success as a Rangers analyst for the Madison Square Garden Network led to broadcast positions with NBC, TBS, ABC, Fox and ESPN. Davidson hosted "Hockey Night in Canada" and covered NHL All-Star Games, five Winter Olympics, and several Stanley Cup Playoffs and Finals over the course of his broadcast career.

His final season of broadcasting was 2005-06.

"The last season I did 153 games," says Davidson, who received the prestigious Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster by the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was inducted in 2009.

Despite his success, the wear and tear was evident. Davidson pauses to think about that final year: "Kind of burns you out a little bit."

It was time for a change.

Moving to the executive suite was a pivotal move for Davidson. As president of hockey operations for the Blues, he had to be the suit-and-tie guy calling the shots.

"I had never been an executive before," says Davidson. "That was a learning experience, too."

Davidson gleaned everything he could from the people surrounding him, and by the end of it, the Blues had earned a Central Division title in 2011-12.

"It took a long time to rebuild the franchise," says Davidson. "But, we got it done."

And then the ownership change. Davidson had another decision to make. What would the master of reinvention do next?

Davidson received a timely phone call from Mike Priest, president and alternate governor of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Priest wanted Davidson to come to Columbus. The Blue Jackets were struggling, just as the Blues had been when Davidson had taken over in St. Louis.

Davidson jumped right in.

"(It's) a brick at a time thing, we're still in that mode," says Davidson of the Blue Jackets. After a series of early season losses, the team replaced coach Todd Richards with former Rangers coach John Tortorella in October. "You have to be patient with it."

So how does Davidson view his three years in Columbus-and what comes next for this dynamic leader?

Below is an edited excerpt from Davidson's conversation with Columbus CEO:


What were your first thoughts coming into Columbus and how you were going to help?

The first thing you need is, you need the support of ownership. Otherwise you've got no chance. And that's very evident here. You need proper facilities to promote the brand of the Blue Jackets and entice people from around the league to come here. You also have to go through a draft and develop process and be patient with it. We've done a lot of drafting.

You said you're in the middle of the process of building the Blue Jackets. Can you talk about where, eventually, you want to see Columbus end up?

The ultimate goal is to win a championship. You can't just rebuild your team or look at your team and think you're good, because other teams are doing the exact same thing. And with today's parity, that's evolved because of the salary cap, it is really close.

Why do you believe Columbus is a good hockey town and, conversely, what are some of the challenges we have in Columbus?

This is going to sound awfully generic but, I don't see challenges in Columbus. I really don't. It's a great place to travel out of, it's centralized; if you take the climate, it's pretty darn good. As far as getting around the city, it's quite easy. I think the quality of life for people living here is exceptional.

What lessons do you feel you've learned along the way that you now apply here in Columbus?

We just have to make sure that we do things right so we don't get ahead of ourselves and then have the bubble pop and you're starting over again.

What are you most proud of doing in the time you've been here?

I think we've stabilized the organization, which I really wanted to do. I'm just proud that we're working with really good people here with the organization. We're going to continue with (original majority owner and chairman) John H. McConnell's theme of trying to build a championship team on the ice and trying to build a championship team off the ice.

Do you ever look back and have regrets or wish you would have done things differently?

I think you should look back. Because I think hindsight is important, or maybe it's what gives you experience. You should have some knowledge of life in general through what you've gone through.

(I've been in the league) over 40 years. You go through a lot of life's lessons. A lot of things. We get curveballs, we get them every single day. You deal with these curveballs. If you get through a day and you don't get a curveball, it's a good day.

Steph Greegor is a freelance writer.