Fifteen days after John Davidson was shockingly fired as Rangers president, the Columbus Blue Jackets announced Thursday that Davidson, the former Rangers icon, is returning to Ohio and resuming his role as president of hockey operations for the Blue Jackets, two years after he left to take the job with the Rangers.
Davidson, 68, reunites with Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, who was also signed to a contract extension by the club.
"As recent events have unfolded, the opportunity to reunite the original two members of the management team from 2012-13 presented itself,’’ Blue Jackets team president Mike Priest said in a Zoom conference call re-introducing Davidson. "And we're very excited to take advantage of that opportunity.’’
Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton were fired by the Rangers on May 5, two days after Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson twice body slammed Artemi Panarin to the ice in a game at Madison Square Garden. The next day, Wilson was fined $5,000 for punching a defenseless Pavel Buchnevich in the game, but he was not suspended, and not punished for his actions against Panarin.
The Rangers released a statement after the ruling in which they called for George Parros, the NHL’s director of player safety, to be fired. The day after that, Davidson and Gorton were fired, though the Rangers insisted the Wilson incident, and the subsequent team statement, was not the reason.
"It was disappointing,’’ Davidson said of being fired. "I think I have every right to say that, along with Jeff Gorton, the general manager, who was let go with myself. But, you know, the key is, if you get knocked down a little, get back on your feet, and don't feel sorry for yourself.’’
Davidson, who had served as the Blue Jackets president of hockey operations for seven years before leaving to join the Rangers in 2019, went on to praise the Rangers, for whom he was a beloved goaltender and Hall of Fame broadcaster.
He called the Rangers "a first-class organization,’’ and wished his and Gorton’s successor, Chris Drury, "all the best.’’ He said he had a "very respectful conversation’’ with James Dolan, the CEO of Madison Square Garden and the owner of the Rangers and Knicks, before the two decided to part ways.
Davidson declined to give any more details about his conversation with Dolan, but he indicated he was proud of the work he and Gorton had done to move the Rangers’ rebuild along.
"When you look back at the work, I think that team's got a good chance to spring ahead very quickly,’’ he said. "They're in good shape. So, I'll just leave it at that.’’
Six days after Davidson and Gorton were let go, Rangers coach David Quinn was fired by Drury. Davidson said Quinn would be added to the list of candidates to fill Columbus’ vacant head coaching job, which opened up with John Tortorella was let go after the season.
"We'd be negligent if we didn't have everybody out there that's a possible head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, if we left them off the list,’’ he said. "David Quinn is a good person, he did a nice job in New York, and certainly his name will be on the list, with a lot of others.’’