Davidson: A positive story in a gloomy season

In an Oilers’ season ripe with disappointment, frustration and losing, it was refreshing to see Brandon Davidson make his NHL debut last night.

It was only 25 months ago that he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, so his journey to the NHL has been far from normal, but last night must have been extra satisfying for the 23 year old.

Davidson has had to overcome adversity numerous times in his hockey career, with most of it coming off the ice.

Davidson’s parents divorced when he was in his early teens, and that meant he couldn’t travel from Taber to Lethbridge to play bantam or midget AAA. His family simply didn’t have the time once his parents split up.

When he was 17 and entering his draft year, they found the time, and he played midget AAA in Lethbridge. He did play three games in the AJHL when he was 16 and another four when he was 17 for the Olds Grizzlies, but he essentially went directly from midget AAA to the Regina Pats.

He wasn’t drafted by Regina or any WHL team. He was a walk on and made the team.

In his first season with the Pats he emerged as a steady D-man with a decent shot. The Oilers drafted him in the 6th round, 162 overall, in his second year of eligibility.

He played two more years in Regina, including his overage season and finished with 135 points in 200 games. He became team captain. The Oilers left him in junior as an overage, because they had too many other young defenceman in the AHL and they wanted him to play a lot and keep developing.

The Oilers signed him to a three-year entry level contract in May of 2012. He attended rookie camp, main camp and was sent to OKC to start his pro career.

Davidson felt a bit slow during camp, but he thought it was just the speed of NHL players.

He was wrong.

“We did a regular checkup with the team (OKC) that we do at the beginning
of the season. We found a lump and that’s how it was discovered,” Davidson said during an interview with me last summer.

“It was tough to take at the time and very emotional and kind of an
unsettling feeling going into the whole process. I was diagnosed on
October 30th (2012) and shortly after on November 1st we went right on
the operation table and had my testicle removed. I had to do about a month and a half of chemo
therapy, which went very well, and then I started recovering and thinking about playing again.”

Davidson was determined to play and he was back on the ice in February. He played a few games in the ECHL, and then played 26 regular season games in OKC and another 17 in the playoffs.

His strength and cardio were not close to optimal levels, but he was determined to play those games.

“I was sitting at about 65, 70%. I didn’t feel the greatest, but I
did want to play and I did want to make an impact, especially it being
my first year as a pro hockey player. It was a battle to just get back
on the ice and then playoffs were a whole other level. It just was
engrained in my mind that I needed a big playoff performance,” said Davidson.

After beating cancer and getting back on the ice for the playoffs, Davidson was excited about the 2013 season. He was back to 100% and he has a solid campaign in Oklahoma.

This summer Davidson injured his groin while training which forced him to miss all of training camp. He didn’t get fazed by it, and after two weeks of practicing with the Oilers, and on his own, Davidson was assigned to OKC.

He dressed in 14 games and according to head coach Todd Nelson he played great. “He plays a simple game, but he moves the puck very well. He wins a lot of puck battles and his positioning is solid,” Nelson told me last week.

Davidson was recalled on Tuesday and played his first NHL game last night in Anaheim.

He played 13:08.

He had two hits, one blocked shot and was +1.

He played 5:10 in the third period when the Oilers were trailing 2-1.

He got better as the game went on and didn’t look out of place.

Davidson should be extremely proud. His hard work and determination paid off. He fulfilled his dream of playing in the NHL. Too often we don’t take a moment to celebrate the victories in life. We are always focused on the next step, but I hope that at some point in his hotel room last night and on the flight home today he smiled and enjoyed the moment.

He deserved it.

And Oilers fans needed a positive story in what has been another dark season.


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  • bwar

    Really great story. I didn’t realize he was playing last night until I saw him take his first shift last night. Brought a smile to my face, something the Oilers haven’t done too often this season.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    i was wondering when they were going to look at this guy. big, physical d-man that played well and wasn’t pushed around by the big Duck forwards. i always liked this pick and, at 23, now is the time to see what we have if this organization has in any way soured on Marincin.

  • pkam

    Great story. By my eye during the rookie tournament, Davidson was that kind of no frills positional player. It was great seeing Nurse and Yakimov and Tkachev (tears) fly around out there, but it was Davidson calming everything down, making the smart play.

    To me he’s like another Fedune. Not sure if his size or physicality will keep him in the nhl.

  • pkam

    Not sure if this is coincidence. But the Barons not only lost last night but allowed 5 goals against. And his linemate Brad Hunt was -2 last night.

    Wonder if Nelson is missing him right now.

  • Sevenseven

    yyyeeeaaahhhh! Finally some positives in oil Country, it is nice of you Jason to cover this story ????

    The Next positive story must be, Oilers are 1 – 2 in last 3 outings with average of 1.3 goal forward and 2.8 aganist under field goal. There you go a wing formula (klow).

  • pkam

    I wonder if the Oilers are being cursed. Let’s count the tragedies we had in the past few years.

    Pitlick and Hamilton are constantly out on IR. Hall, RNH and Klefbom all needed shoulder surgery before the age of 20. Fedun’s leg injury, Davidson’s cancer, and Pelss’s fatal accident.

    • Salty

      This is exactly the type of role model we need on the Oilers. No gifts along the, just plain hard work, commitment and the burning internal desire. Take this attitude and multiply it.

  • Kevwan

    What a great dose of perspective…. Here is a great story of a real warrior who overcomes huge obstacles to realize his dreams. This story should be the talk of the league rather than the ineptness of the franchise to which he is attached!

  • '68 Fire Chicken

    This is pure gold. So your saying a guy with 1 testicle plays with more balls than our other players who have 2…..

    No wonder we can’t win a game.

  • '68 Fire Chicken

    you forgot to mention he was second team all star in the whl- something Maracin, Musil or Gernat never were. He played 11games in the echl after coming back from cancer. 11 games 7 goals 11 points.

  • Salty

    Between Davidson and Pitlick I hope the trend of deserving prospects getting time with the big club continues. The season is lost anyways, and finishing dead last comes with one hell of a consolation prize; might as well see what these guys can do at the NHL level. Still holding out hope Curtis Hamilton has a couple solid weeks/months and gets some NHL minutes so we can get a better idea of what (if anything) he brings to the table.

  • Salty

    Well done Brandon, you played really well yesterday – better than 4 of the other defense players. “Head on a swivel” were the words used to describe your play by Bruce McCurdy, and he was spot on. I hope you get a good long look with the team, you sure have earned it, along with Tyler Pitlick, or as one of the commenters calls him “Potluck Pitlick.”

  • Sevenseven

    I like this kid. I am still perplexed that the Oilers would punt a high character guy like Fedun and then start the season with Hunt on the roster.

    The Oilers got it wrong with Fedun and Smid, so it’s nice to see Davidson get rewarded.