Call it the heartwarming flipside of gentle rookie hazing.
Instead of picking on one of their own, teammates are rallying around one guy who wears the same colours. The message is the same — you’re one of us; we’re in this together — but the medium is so much sweeter.
This time it’s the group picking up the dinner cheque for you and lugging your equipment back to the room.
Mere weeks after nearly three dozen Indianapolis Colts shaved their heads in a display of support for head coach Chuck Pagano as he endures treatment for leukemia, a similar show of solidarity has taken place in the hockey hotbed of Oklahoma City.
“I actually didn’t know we were shaving our heads, and then the razors were in the middle of the room,” says Oklahoma City Barons defenceman Brandon Davidson in a, um, clip of the mass clipping posted by the AHL club Monday. “It’s unbelievable to have the guys on my side. Just to get a laugh, it’s always good for morale.”
If only morale could be IV’d directly into the systems of cancer patients like Davidson, an Edmonton Oilers prospect drafted in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL draft.
On Halloween, the 21-year-old Davidson received life’s cruelest trick. Just six games into the Barons’ season, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Davidson was coming off his best season with the WHL’s Regina Pats in which he scored 49 points in 69 games and was a stellar plus-26.
With so many eyes on a Barons team boosted by locked-out Oilers Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz, this season was an opportunity for Davidson to get noticed.
The morning after the horrible news, Movember kicked off. Young Oilers and Oilers-in-training began growing patchy, unseemly moustaches, kicking their fundraising up a notch and dedicating their efforts to Davidson.
On Nov. 2, the Lethbridge, Alta., native started treatment that removed the cancerous tumor.
Post-operative testing revealed the disease’s progression had been stood up at the blue line.
On Monday, Davidson began chemotherapy at The Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center on the University of Oklahoma’s downtown campus. It’s his shot at limiting the chance of the cancer returning. It was a tough decision to make, and his fellow Barons were quick to have his back.
“Basically it’s just one round,” Davidson told the team’s website. “It’s a reassurance that it won’t come back, that we can put this thing to rest and get back to hockey. It wasn’t an easy decision to make. Basically this was the best opportunity for me to put this thing to bed and move on.”
Davidson appears not just brave but downright happy while speaking about his health challenge, gracious for the well-wishes he’s received from fans in Canada and the U.S. and, of course, the guys he rides the bus with.
“We haven’t been together long… But we’re in this together,” Colts punter Pat McAfee wrote in a Twitter message, regarding Pagano and his NFL team.
McAfee could just as easily have been writing about the AHL Barons.
“I’m doing good, and I’m excited to play hockey again once this is over,” Davidson says, his thoughts going back to a Barons dressing room that looks like a barber shop at closing time. “They’ve given me everything I need to stay happy.”