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BACK AT HOME

After multiple stops throughout North America, Brandon Davidson's career has led him back to Southern Alberta

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

A five-hour-plus trek, 570 odometer clicks one-way from the old homestead in Taber, east into Regina to attend games during his junior days with the Pats.

Another five hours far north from the current base in Lethbridge during three NHL winters spent modelling Oilers livery.

"So you'll never hear me complain about this drive," dad Scott Davidson confesses of a upcoming frequent hike up to Calgary.

"That's for sure.

"We were very fortunate when he was in Edmonton to be able to make the short drive - well, it seemed short at the time - but after signing with Calgary, being only two and a half hours from home, well, I don't think it could get much better."

Geographically, no.

"My dad," Brandon Davidson informs you, "works for Canadian Natural Resources, at a gas plant out in Hays. He drives two hours to and from work every day from Lethbridge, so this will seem like nothing.

"Having my family close by, for encouragement, for support, for … everything, means the world to me.

"Having my dad, my mom (Laurie), my older brother (Kyle) and his family - a daughter and two sons - at games, to be able play in front of them, well, that's all the motivation I need to push myself to the limit."

Signed by the Flames as a free agent to a one-year, two-way deal on Canada Day, the 28-year-old defenceman, a 2010 sixth-round draft selection of the Oilers, realizes that he has stepped into a unique situation.

The Davidson clan aren't taking it for granted, either.

"You feel for any athlete that has to move away to pursue their dream,'' points out dad. "As exciting as the life is - everybody sees that part - they don't see the lonely part where you're not able to see family and friends for long stretches.

"And even when you are passing through town, or more often than not the nearest town to where you grew up, you might get to actually see them for oh, maybe, 40 minutes. They're working. They haven't got a lot of free time.

"So you burn up lots of minutes on the phone and on the internet trying to stay close, but it's just not the same. 

"For Brandon to be able to see us, to see his niece and nephews, is something you can't explain. (Kyle's children) really don't understand the hockey part of it. To them, he's Uncle Brandon. So it's neat to see them at the rink around him."

The Flames brass is mighty curious, too.

 

 

"We've had an interest in Brandon for a while," acknowledges GM Brad Treliving. "We talked to him a year ago and he ended up going to Chicago.

"Plays an understated game. Someone who shows up really well in our data in terms of his ability to defend and move pucks. We've tracked him over the years, spoken to people who've been around him. Tremendous teammate. Brightens up a room. Great attitude. Guys gravitate to him. And talking to him, he's really excited about being back in Southern Alberta. That's important.

"He's a guy who's been hurt the last two years, who was on the verge of becoming a regular NHL player but unfortunately some guys get caught in that (injury) cycle.

"We've lost a little bit of depth on our blueline for this year. We're looking to replace it. He's someone looking for an opportunity.

"The hope for us is that he can stay healthy."

The unfortunate ACL tear suffered by Juuso Valimaki while off-season training has created space for someone to step up.

"I've kinda been on both sides of that scenario,'' says Davidson. "Injuries are never fun or fair, for anybody. But all I can do is what I would've done anyway - my best."

And for inspiration to reach that personal level, he needs look no further than across the dressing room at 35-year-old Mark Giordano, the recently-crowned Norris Trophy winner.

"It's absolutely astonishing,'' marvels Davidson. "By playing at the level he does, he teaches guys like myself, at 28, that there's so much more to this game, so much more to learn, than you thought there was.

"He's just a great example for everybody.

"It'll be an honour to watch him this season, kinda pick his game apart and take things from him that I can use.

"I plan on studying him like a book.

"I mean, he's the Norris Trophy winner for a reason. And there's nothing that says he can't do it again."

 

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The route has been a decidedly twisting one since leaving the family cocoon in Taber to embark on his dream, winding from Regina to Oklahoma City to Stockton to Montreal to Long Island to the Windy City to Rockford, Ill.

Leading now, finally, to home.

Or as close to as a fella can usually hope for in an often-nomadic business.

"That's first and foremost in my mind: Making sure I do stay here, establish that relationship with the coaching staff and my teammates and creating an atmosphere where I can thrive," says Davidson.

"I've been in town about 14 days now, assimilating with the guys and figuring out what's going to happen this season. I have nothing but high hopes for myself.

"I'm ready for this opportunity. Especially being in my hometown, per se.

"My entire career has pointed me to here, to now. I've been preparing the whole summer for this, put in an effort like never before, and now the time has finally arrived.

"Being in the city, the chance to wear the jersey of the team I grew up supporting are things I don't take lightly.

"There's an opportunity here.

"I won't waste it.

"All I can say is: I'm ready."

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