Kekalainen was a prime target from the start
John Davidson has said that a player's nationality will never dictate his status or how he's viewed, and this morning, he felt the same about his new general manager.
After two years spent as GM of Jokerit in Finland, Jarmo Kekalainen agreed to become the next GM of the Blue Jackets yesterday. Davidson said he and Kekalainen first discussed the job a few days ago, and once interest appeared mutual, the progression was fairly rapid. The 46-year-old brings almost two decades of hockey managerial experience to Columbus and has served in hockey operations capacities for both the Ottawa Senators and St. Louis Blues, and was the assistant GM under Davidson in St. Louis.
The Finnish-born Kekalainen is the first European GM in the nearly 100-year history of the NHL, and while it's a historic day for both Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets, Davidson said one look at the resume tells you that it wouldn't have mattered what his last name is.
"He's a loyal, honest and character-filled man," Davidson said. "He's ready and confident...he has one heck of a resume. You try to have an open mind with everything in this world of hockey. It's a wonderful world.
"If his last name was Johnson or Smith or something, it still wouldn't matter. He's had success everywhere he's been, and we expect the same."
Kekalainen held a press conference at 4:30 p.m. local time in Helsinski where he announced his move to the Blue Jackets. At the time of his departure from Jokerit, the club sits in first place and has been one of the most consistent clubs in its league.
A brief NHL career (55 games) didn't sit well with Kekalainen, who has been described as "intense" and "passionate" by both Davidson and others around the hockey world today. His goal is to build a championship-caliber organization and ultimately compete for a Stanley Cup, he told the media in Helsinki, and that attitude is born from a never-say-die mentality he had as a player.
"One thing I'm proud about my playing career is that I never gave up," Kekalainen said, according to Juha Hiitela, NHL correspondent for Ilta-Sanomat & Veikkaaja in Finland. "I kept that same attitude for my management career, too.
"I couldn't brag as my NHL career as a player, it was 55 games. I never got chance to win the Stanley Cup as a player, wearing a suit is my chance."
BlueJackets.com and the CBJ Today blog will have more coverage on Jarmo Kekalainen's hiring after practice today and post-conference call with the media at 12:30 p.m., the latter of which you can listen to live.