Former Highland Dancer Davidson brings rich life experiences to Griffins women's hockey team

Kennedy Davidson, seen during a game last season, has transitioned from defence to forward for the Griffins. She has also changed numbers from 2 to 17 this season (Nick Kuiper photo).
Kennedy Davidson, seen during a game last season, has transitioned from defence to forward for the Griffins. She has also changed numbers from 2 to 17 this season (Nick Kuiper photo).

Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Growing up in tiny Fox Creek, AB, Kennedy Davidson was faced with few options for winter activities.

"If you didn't play hockey in the winter, you really didn't have anything to do," the third-year MacEwan Griffins women's hockey forward said. "It was you either did hockey or you danced."

At first, as a young girl, she chose the latter, spending nine years competing in Highland Dancing. With her instructor hailing from Scotland, Fox Creek became a hotbed for the discipline.

"I made it to nationals in Highland Dance and then the year after that, I started to lose, so I thought I'd try hockey," she said, inspired to try the sport because her older brother Bodie was in it.

The most difficult transition proved to be in her stance. While Highland Dancing requires rather perfect posture, successful hockey players don't skate in an upright position.

"For a lot of years, I was very straight up while skating," said Davidson, who was originally coached by her father Mike in boys hockey before her parents sent her to attend Warner Hockey School to play against girls in a small Alberta town just north of the U.S. border.

She's hardly a stranger to travelling, though, as Davidson's family owns an orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania. She explains that her mom Jody travelled to the African country in 2013 to help at a different orphanage, a trip which sowed the seeds for a family trip back there in 2014.

"When we went down as a family, everyone that needed to be done there had already been done, so a guy she met there said 'you could have a piece of my land,' " Davidson explained. "My dad built the orphanage there with the help of some other people. Kids at the orphanage there – my mom tries to get them sponsored. She had almost 50 kids sponsored to go to a private school."

That experience has certainly helped shape a strong worldview of community service.

"It really humbles you and show you how much you have compared to what they have," she said. "I'm really proud of my mom for volunteering and all the work she does."

On the ice, Davidson ended up on the St. Albert Midget AAA Slash for her final year of high school. That's where MacEwan Griffins head coach Lindsay McAlpine saw her and recruited her to come to MacEwan in 2015.

Davidson was initially playing defence her first season, but with the Griffins stacked at the position, she made a switch to forward in 2016-17 and has been there since.

"I found out I was a better forward than a defenceman," she said, noting she still brings defensive tendencies to the position.

"There's so much more skating. My first game as a forward I was sucking wind for a little bit. I like it a lot better. I feel like you're involved in the play a lot more."

Even at forward, though, she's had to be versatile, switching from centre to winger this season.

"I'm surprised I haven't played goalie yet," she chuckled.

McAlpine said her contributions this season have been noticeable.

"She's a pretty physical player, she takes up a lot of space," the coach said. "She's good with her angles, good forechecking forward, able to turn pucks over in the offensive zone. Her confidence is building now, so we're hoping to get a little bit more offensive production from her."

Davidson will lead the Griffins into another series against Red Deer College – their opening-weekend opponent earlier this month. MacEwan (3-0-1) was atop the ACAC women's hockey standings before a bye last week allowed RDC (4-1-1), who've played two more games, to pass them.

Adding to the budding rivalry is the fact MacEwan knocked RDC out in the first round of the playoffs last season. They'll meet Thursday night in Red Deer (7 p.m., Enmax Centrium) for that institution's second-annual Pink in the Rink game to raise funds for charity and to showcase strong female leaders. Spectators on Thursday get in free by wearing pink.

MacEwan will host RDC in the back half of the series on Friday (7 p.m., Downtown Community Arena).

"With Red Deer, it's often a battle of the top two goaltenders in the league," said McAlpine. "Sandy Heim versus Tracie Kikuchi will be an interesting matchup. (It would be) a really important step for us to get that first goal and build that confidence and start to break her down.

"We've worked a lot on traffic at the net front, creating shots with second opportunities. That's really what's key in beating her."