He was almost immediately in surgery, and the 22-year-old Edmonton Oilers prospect was back playing professional hockey by February, after chemotherapy and the energy-sapping result of that treatment.
Davidson played a few games at forward for the American Hockey League’s Oklahoma City Barons before the Oilers sent him to the East Coast Hockey League’s Stockton Thunder to get some playing time on defence, his natural position. In his first game, Davidson scored twice, including the overtime winner. He finished his 11 games in the ECHL with seven goals and 12 points before rejoining the AHL’s Barons.
Those “drastic changes” are in the past for Davidson, who was skating alongside several other local pro players and Lethbridge Hurricanes veterans on Monday night at the Enmax Centre. He’ll head to Edmonton’s NHL training camp next month and likely spend the season in the AHL.
But while facing cancer treatment, Davidson said he got by with a little help from his friends.
“It was just good having all the hockey guys around me,” said Davidson. “We’re always a family, be it here in the gym or on the ice. We’re always a family and we stick together. The other guys have kept my spirits up throughout the whole thing, even when I was down in the dumps for a while. It’s good to have people who understand your pain of not playing hockey and also the pain you’re going through. That was very helpful.”
Back in southern Alberta to train over the summer months, the news regarding Davidson’s condition is good.
“Basically, right now I’m cancer-free,” he said last month. “I’m monitored every three months and the odds of it coming back are higher than other cancers, but it’s nothing to be worried about, it happens to lots of young men. It’s very treatable. The odds are good and right now I’m 100 per cent cancer-free.”
“It was a battle for a bit, but I think I came back and played strong, kind of pushed through all of that stuff and now I’m healthy as an ox,” he said.
He’s headed to NHL camp hoping to make it in the big league.
“If that doesn’t happen, I want to have a great season and show I can definitely play,” he said. “Sometimes with hockey it’s a numbers game, so you can’t be where you want to be sometimes. I understand I have to work hard to get where I want to go. For me right now, it’s just working here on getting bigger with Trevor and really getting him to get me to that next level.”
And Davidson has kept contact with the Oilers.
“We keep communication throughout the whole year,” he said. “We’re always talking throughout every single week. I have an individual program they’ve set up for me that I can work on throughout the summer time alongside Trevor Hardy’s workouts. Basically, it’s moreso on the ice, for example, just moving your feet and getting quicker on the ice. They keep in touch with you that way and make sure you’re always improving.”
It’s been a summer of change for an Oilers team that signed forward Boyd Gordon and netminder Jason Labarbera from the Phoenix Coyotes as well as defenceman Andrew Ference from the Boston Bruins.
In the front office, Craig MacTavish has returned to fill the general manager’s role, while Dallas Eakins has come on as the team’s new head coach.
“It’s been crazy,” said Davidson. “It’s one of the most moves I’ve seen in a long time. For the Oilers, they picked up four or five new guys from free agency. It’s good and we needed it. We have a new general manager change and coaching change.”
“It’s exciting times and hopefully I’m a part of it,” he added.