On Friday, the Canadian Junior Hockey League announced that outgoing Manitoba Junior Hockey League commissioner Kim Davis has been appointed as a ‘life member’ to the CJHL. Following 18 years as head of Canada’s oldest junior hockey league (established in 1918), the 62-year-old announced his decision this past January to step down from his role at the conclusion of the 2019-20 season.
Little did he know that his final year would be such an outlier. With the regular season having just been completed prior to the North American outbreak of COVID-19, Davis was forced to follow Hockey Canada’s mandate and shut down league operation just a handful of games into the 2020 MJHL postseason.
Making matters even worse, Portage la Prairie was granted as the host to the 2020 Centennial Cup, where league champions from across the CJHL were set to converge on Manitoba for the National Junior A Championship – something now long in the rearview mirror. Although not a storybook ending for the longtime league supporter, Davis was recognized almost immediately after officially handing over the reigns to his successor – newly-appointed Kevin Saurette – on July 1.
“The CJHL is grateful for Kim’s many years of service, as a member of our Board and is truly deserving of joining the CJHL’s distinguished group of Life Members,” said CJHL president Brent Ladds in a league-issued press release. “His dedication, integrity, and passion for Junior A hockey across Canada has always been evident through the unselfish giving of his time and his commitment to player-related issues. We wish him well, and sincerely hope that he will enjoy, his well deserved time with his family.”
Now placed alongside six other prominent figures (John Grisdale, Ron Boileau, Joe Drago, Frank McKinnon, Wayne Kartush and Marty Knack) who have helped shape junior hockey across the country, the Flin Flon product is just the second member with ties to the province of Manitoba (Frank McKinnon).
“On behalf of the entire MJHL Community, cheers to Kim Davis who served his last day as Commissioner today,” the MJHL posted in a statement on social media on June 30th – Davis’ final day as league commissioner. “Thank you for your dedication, integrity, leadership, commitment, countless hours of hard work and everything in between, the MJHL wouldn’t be what it is today without you!”
During his 18 years as MJHL commissioner, Davis saw the landscape of junior hockey and hockey as a whole within Manitoba change drastically. The return of the Winnipeg Jets, the rise of the Brandon Wheat Kings, the return of the Manitoba Moose and the relocation of the Winnipeg ICE all served as major pieces of importance/deterrents to MJHL fans over the past two decades.
Under Davis’ watch, the MJHL saw a handful relocations, with just one less team now (11 from 12) than when he assumed the role. Davis observed over 6,000 regular season games, over 700 postseason games and over 200 regional/national championship games during his time in charge. The highly respected Manitoba sports figure has also served as a member of the CJHL’s Executive Committee for a significant period of time.
“I want to just state in the strongest terms possible that the MJHL is in great shape right now, on all kinds of measures,” Davis said at his January 29, 2020 press conference. “We’re looking very much toward continuing to grow the league, and that’s kind of at the heart of some of the staffing decisions that we’re going to be making. It’s an exciting time.”
Following a 204-game career with his hometown Flin Flon Bombers in the mid-1970s, Davis was drafted to both the WHA’s Edmonton Oilers (24th overall) and the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins (48th overall) in 1977. He spent five seasons between the NHL, AHL and IHL, before deciding to pursue postsecondary education, with which he developed the skillset to take on the business/managerial aspect of operating the MJHL.
Davis finished his NHL career with five goals, 12 points and 51 penalty minutes in 36 regular season games between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs. He also won the AHL’s Calder Cup in 1982 with the former New Brunswick Hawks.