Bill Davidge's Long Goodbye

Chris Gaitten
Bill Davidge

Bill Davidge is smiling, as always. Sitting on a stool in Columbus Monthly’s photo studio, he says with a laugh in between camera flashes that he’s been trying to fade out quietly, but no one will let him.

It’s true. Since he announced his retirement on March 27, the city has been giving the Columbus Blue Jackets TV broadcaster a prolonged farewell, perhaps with more fanfare than he anticipated. There have been many media profiles, an on-ice tribute and a never-ending line of fans stopping by the Fox Sports Ohio desk in the arena to wish him well. He’s affable and generous with his time, and he’s spent 20 years building those connections. He’s further endeared himself to fans through his public struggle against multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer he was diagnosed with in 2014.

His sendoff tour was extended for a month by the Blue Jackets’ late-season resurgence, until their playoff defeat by the Boston Bruins. After the Jackets swept the Tampa Bay Lightning, which propelled them to the second round of the playoffs for the first time ever, Fox Sports co-host Brian Giesenschlag asked Davidge what it was like for him to be present on such a historic night. Davidge was speechless on air for eight full seconds while the fans screamed behind him. “Pretty emotional,” he said finally. “Outstanding.” I called him the next day.

Let’s talk about the game last night. What did that win mean for this team and the city?

Well, it’s something that you’ve waited 20 years—and in fact, I’ve waited 20 years for—to taste a little bit of success, and I think that what that did is really set precedent as far as this hockey team and what it can [be] capable of doing. … Nothing is ever accomplished without a little bit of enthusiasm, and you get a chance to see that last night, that over 19,000 people never budged. They didn’t leave.

What’s your favorite memory looking back on your career with the Jackets?

Opening night [of the inaugural season in 2000] when we had the Chicago Blackhawks down 3-0 and I started to pencil in a parade route—that we were going to win the Stanley Cup after having the Hawks down. Well, we end up losing that game 5-3, and we scrapped the parade route. But I can remember like it was yesterday. It really was exciting. Much like that game last night—this is going to be a memory I’m going to have for a long time. It’s one of those that stay with you.

When did you decide that this would be your final season?

Before Christmas of last year. You know, it was 20 years in, I just turned 65. You evaluate where your family is, and between my wife, Jayna, and I, we’ve got six kids, a couple of grandkids. We have a place in Florida, and with my health—it’s family, it’s health and then it’s everything else. I have a cancer you can’t cure, but it’s something that needs attention every two months. And so that kind of made the decision—it made it easy. I’ve met my maker, and I’m at peace with my decision. I’m really looking forward to it.

What do you have planned for your retirement?

Split the difference between Grove City as well as Naples, Florida. … I like to golf, and while this body is able and willing, I want to be able to try to play a little bit of golf and get that handicap down to a scratch again. Right now it’s about a 5.5, and I need to work on that short game. I don’t hit it anywhere anymore, so I’ll move up a set of tees and have some fun.

What do you think you’ll miss most about the job?

The people. The team. You walk into the locker room, and you sit down and talk hockey. The players themselves. Shooting the breeze with the coaching staff and then sharing that with the fans before I go on the air each and every night. And I do that for about a half-hour when the fans come into the building. I’m available, and we sit and we talk. So no, it’s not just one thing. It’s a pile of them, and it all deals with people.

What are you proudest of over the course of your career?

I don’t know if I’m proud about anything, but you know what, I’m very blessed is really what I am. It’s not being proud. I’m so blessed to be able to be part of a game; if you can imagine, as a little kid, this is what I wanted to do. If I can’t play, then I wanted to coach. If I can’t coach, then I wanted to talk about it. And so I don’t know if that’s being proud, but I just feel [I’ve been] very blessed that the good Lord has helped me in a lot of different ways to be able to do the things that I love to do.


Like what you’re reading?Subscribe to Columbus Monthly magazine, as well as ourweekly newsletter so that you keep abreast of the most exciting and interesting events and destinations to explore, as well as the most talked-about newsmakers shaping life in Columbus.