Junior hockey in Manitoba will see a major change at season’s end.
At a press conference Jan. 29, Kim Davis announced he will be stepping down as commissioner of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) after 18 years as the league’s top dog. Director of operations Kevin Saurette will take over the position in June.
“It’s an exciting time for me personally,” Davis said.
“If I think back on the many years that I’ve been in this role […] obviously lots of memories come back to me.”
Taking over from a staple of the Manitoba hockey community is a tall task, but Saurette is excited for what the future holds.
“I’m really thankful for the opportunity the board of governors of the MJHL, the member clubs and Kim Davis have given me,” Saurette said.
“And I’m very aware of the responsibilities that come with being the commissioner of the MJHL.”
Davis and the MJHL began his transition out of the role more than four years ago at Davis’s own recommendation. Saurette’s hiring was the first step in this succession plan, and he has spent more than three years learning from Davis to prepare for taking over as commissioner.
“I made a proposal to the board of the league which — in a nutshell — suggested to them that they should start […] a process, if you will, to ensure that someone followed me after I retired,” Davis said.
“At the time I didn’t know when that would occur, obviously now all of us know it’s the end of June, but at that time it was really just an idea which [the board] embraced fairly quickly.”
Now focusing on retirement, Davis said he is happy where the league is in terms of talent and league parity, as well as financially. He made care to quash the fears of fans following a tweet sent Monday by the league about a major announcement slated for the Jan. 29.
“We were fully aware of the […] speculation when we announced on Monday that we were going to be having this event today, and a lot of it was on the negative side,” he said.
“I want to just state in the strongest terms possible that the MJHL is in great shape right now, on all kinds of measures.”
With Davis retiring, the league will undergo some minor restructuring at the management level. Along with hiring a replacement for Saurette as he moves into his role as commissioner, the MJHL will also be adding a marketing position to improve sponsorship revenue.
“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,” Davis said.
“We do expect to be very aggressive in terms of improving and enhancing the sponsorship revenues that we generate for the league. It’s a real challenge for the teams in junior hockey across the country — financially.”
Davis, though, stated the MJHL is healthy and some teams in the league are among the best in the country, both on the bottom line and on the ice.