Kyle Davidson indicated he is eager to bring change on and off the ice during his introduction on Tuesday as the Chicago Blackhawks' newest general manager.
"We have to create a positive culture throughout the organization," he said, adding he wanted to make sure "respect" and "dignity" were involved in everything the team does, and the "work starts today."
Davidson had been acting as the interim general manager since longtime general manager Stan Bowman resigned Oct. 26, 2021, in the wake of a report by an outside law firm that found the Blackhawks mishandled allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player, now known to be Kyle Beach, during the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2010.
"I have to acknowledge where the team is where we are today," Davidson, 33, said, sitting on stage alongside team chairman Rocky Wirtz, chief executive officer Danny Wirtz and president of business operations Jaime Faulkner. "It's clear we need to be better. ... I intend to rebuild both on and off the ice." Davidson added "we need to be both honest with ourselves and our fan base," and that the team will "continue to review how we operate" and will be making "crucial decisions in the near future."
Davidson has been with the organization since 2010, when he was brought on as an intern in the hockey operations department. He was a member of the front office when the team won the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015 and becomes the youngest Blackhawks general manager in franchise history.
While in the interim role, Davidson has overseen significant changes to the organization, having fired head coach Jeremy Colliton earlier this season and bringing in Rockford IceHogs head coach Derek King as an interim replacement.
Davidson takes over the hockey side of the prestigious Original Six club at a time when the Blackhawks are facing a number of troubling challenges. In the wake of the Beach incident and its handling, the NHL fined the Blackhawks $2 million. The team settled its lawsuit with Beach in mediation on Dec. 15 for an undisclosed amount.
But the team was further criticized for an outburst at reporters by Rocky Wirtz during a town hall with fans and media on Feb. 2 about the team's culture, which prompted an apology by Wirtz that some perceived as less than adequate.
In addition, the team faces questions about appropriateness about the future of its nickname and logo, as well as questions about the on-ice future of the once-dominant team. In particular, the team is looking at expiring contracts after next season of franchise icons Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, whom Davidson called "extremely important pieces to the organization." He added that he will have frequent conversations with the players and "there won't be any surprises on their end in terms of what we're doing with the organization."
And Davidson also faces, with interim King in place, a decision about who the next coach of the team will be. The new GM said he wanted the new coach, whether it's King or someone else, to be "an elite communicator."
"Looking at more of a rebuild," he said of what's ahead of him. "Things we need to fix that are going to take time. ... We really need to do this the right way."
Specifically in the case of the Blackhawks, that includes changing the hockey culture, which has only recently been seen as restricted to former players and people previously involved in the game. In this vein, Davidson said he sees himself as a "prominent leader" in fostering change around the hockey culture mindset, and he sees himself "leading from the front on it, not only in our organization but also the grander hockey community."
Davidson added there will be a "very broad change in philosophy" and "there's going to be a lot of change coming in terms of philosophy and approaches."
This falls in line with the approach of the Blackhawks. "We're not where we want to be," Danny Wirtz said in his introductory remarks. "We want our general manager, Kyle, to think differently."
The Blackhawks conducted an extensive interview process for its vacant position, interviewing a wide-ranging list of candidates, including: Davidson, former Bruins and Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, Hurricanes assistant GM Eric Tulsky, former Canadiens assistant GM Scott Mellanby and Lightning director of hockey operation Mathieu Darche.
The Blackhawks also had interest in Toronto Raptors vice president Teresa Resch, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, and Chicago Cubs assistant GM Jeff Greenberg, with the organization putting an emphasis on speaking to candidates outside of hockey.
In the end, the Blackhawks went with someone from within the organization, which is sure to foster criticism about the team paying lip service to the idea of change.
"Out of box did not mean outside of these walls," Danny Wirtz said. "Kyle is a fresh face, although he has been here for a while."
Former Blackhawks forwards Eddie Olczyk, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp assisted the team in its GM search.
In recent roles with the club, Davidson oversaw salary cap management and oversaw the building of an analytics department, and was involved with day-to-day hockey operations tasks, including player contract negotiations, entry draft, salary arbitration, collective bargaining agreement administration, and scouting at the professional and amateur levels.
He started as an intern and has also held the titles of senior manager of hockey operations, assistant to the general manager and, before this season, assistant general manager of hockey administration.
Before joining the Blackhawks, Davidson’s first NHL front office experience came with the Ottawa Senators. He also spent time in the front office of the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League and Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.
The Sudbury, Ontario, native graduated from the sports administration program at Laurentian University in 2010.
The Blackhawks, 14th in the 16-team Western Conference at 19-27-6 this season, are on track to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons.