Test results confirmed the lump was cancer. Treatable cancer. But cancer nevertheless.
Brandon Davidson, a 21-year-old rookie from Canada, was told Nov. 1 he had testicular cancer. The Oklahoma City Barons defenseman underwent surgery two days later. He spent the next six weeks recovering from surgery, then six additional weeks undergoing chemotherapy.
Davidson sat out all of November, December and January but returned to game action three months after the diagnosis.
“It's been very emotional but also very meaningful,” Davidson said. “This season has had its ups and downs. But it's been exciting. Ever since I've come back I've kind of had a new outlook on life. To go from where I wasn't playing hockey to where I am right now, I'm kind of on a high.”
Davidson not only returned, he's part of the defensive rotation for the Barons, who lead the best-of-7 American Hockey League Western Conference finals 2-1 against Grand Rapids heading into Games 4 & 5 Friday and Saturday at the Cox Convention Center.
“The kid oozes character. I could tell that the first time I talked to him,” said team captain Josh Green. “He's gone through some tough times, for sure, but he stayed positive and battled through.
“He's been awesome. He can chip in offensively. He had a big assist (Wednesday) night. He's a steady defenseman we can rely on. No one has any worries when he's on the ice.”
Paired with AHL veteran blue-liner Garrett Stafford is the ultimate compliment. A sixth-round pick, Davidson is getting ice time over players such as Colten Teubert, a former first-round pick who once was one of the Edmonton Oilers' top prospects.
“It speaks volumes about his character to overcome that illness,” said Oklahoma City coach Todd Nelson. “The way he's played since he came back has been tremendous. He's getting better and better. For a young kid, first year pro, to go through that and overcome it is very inspirational.”
Before Davidson underwent chemotherapy treatments several teammates shaved their heads.
“I received great support from my teammates, the fans, the entire organization,” Davidson said. “The guys definitely made me feel they were with me, standing by me through all of this. It's a great group of guys, something I'll never forget.”
What's been gratifying is once he returned, Davidson quickly proved he was ready to play a key role on a team making a run at the Calder Cup.
“I'm very thankful to be in the position I'm in, but I've worked hard for it,” Davidson said. “Every day I come to the rink I put in the time and effort to get to where I am today. I feel I'm playing well, but it's also a privilege.”
Davidson was given the Hunt Memorial Award, voted on by AHL coaches, players and media members. The award is based on sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey.
An unheralded prospect who has improved greatly since training camp, Davidson, 6-foot-1, 202 pounds, can play physical but also has blueline scoring skills.
After being selected in the sixth round three years ago, the Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, product returned to Regina in the Western Junior Hockey League.
Davidson scored 100 points with the Pats his final two seasons. He was Regina's Rookie of the Year two years ago. Last season, he led all Pats' defensemen in scoring.
With the Barons, Davidson has played more of a defensive role. He scored five points in 26 regular season games but has five assists in the playoffs. He scored 12 points in 11 games with Stockton in the ECHL during a rehab stint.
“That was good for him,” Oklahoma City goaltender Yann Danis said. “He wasn't the same player I remember the first month of the season. When he came back he played with a lot of confidence. He's improved like 10 times from before.”
Davidson agrees a monthlong stint in Double-A was exactly what he needed after being sidelined for three months.
“It helped me get my lungs back, get back in shape and get a feel for the game again,” Davidson said. “Sometimes it doesn't come back as quickly as you'd like. But I got to play in every situation. It's been steady Eddie ever since.”
The ultimate goal is to play in the NHL. That might come as early as next season if injuries necessitate an Edmonton call up. Realistically, Davidson probably will spend most of next season in Oklahoma City continuing to improve his overall game.
“I want to try to make it as fast as I can, but I also want to get there doing things the right way,” Davidson said. “I'll always play my heart out and let upper management make those decisions.”
Regardless when he makes his NHL debut, Davidson is a prospect despite being the 162nd player selected in the 2010 NHL draft.
The three-month cancer detour improved his standing with the organization. His plus/minus isn't off the charts but in 38 games with the Barons he's plus-3.
Davidson's emotional season has a happy ending. And it's not over.
“Ever since those (Edmonton Oilers) guys left after the lockout we've kind of been the underdog,” Davidson said. “Everyone has bought in and really come together. We're playing our best hockey. It's very exciting. We all realize we have a chance to do something special.”
One of the top highlights this season was talented, young NHL stars Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Justin Schultz played three months in the Cox Convention Center during the lockout. But one of the top stories from the 2012-13 season will be Davidson earning an award given for character.
“To miss three months is big no matter what the reason is,” Danis said. “But it was cancer. It's such a huge credit to him. He's solid. He's a guy we can rely on. It's incredible for him to come back and play this well. It's an unbelievable story.”