For the Davidson family, hockey is more than just a fun game. It’s actually in their blood.
The Midhurst family boasts a long history of love for “Canada’s game” going back as for as the Great Depression, says Brad Davidson.
“My great-grandfather was a steelworker during the Depression and the organization was offering steelworkers that would work for free shares to the team,” Brad tells BarrieToday.
His great-grandfather was one of the many out of work Torontonians helped build the hockey shrine that was Maple Leaf Gardens.
“He wanted to do something so he helped build the Gardens and his son ended up playing for the team," Brad says.
That son — Brad’s grandfather, Bob Davidson — played for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1934 to 1946. To date, he says his grandfather is the only Toronto-born captain the team has ever had.
After retiring from the game, Bob Davidson stayed on with the team to coach and served as the franchise’s chief scout for 30 years.
The tradition didn’t stop there, as both Brad’s father and uncle also worked for the organization.
Just like three generations before him, Brad grew up loving hockey and has passed that passion on to his two sons — nine-year-old Jack and five-year-old Ben.
“It’s a great sport and it definitely made me who I am today. I think there’s a lot more to hockey than just the sport," he says. "There are so many life lessons you can gain (when you’re) part of a team. I am coaching both of the boys and when they’re at the rink, they listen well, they take instructions well. Throughout life, you run into similar situations… (and) it builds character.”
In fact, the Davidsons love playing hockey so much that they have built what can only be described as “the rink to end all rinks” in their backyard. While it started off small — the first year the rink was approximately 20-by-20 feet — the rink and the boards have grown every year since.
“As the boys grow, it seems to get bigger too,” he says, noting this year the rink is 37 feet long by 26 feet wide. “We’ve even branded it with our own logo and our own name: The Davidson Cube.
"We are just having fun with it. We brainstorm and come up with new logos (and) last year we went higher on the end boards because the kids are getting older."
Brad credits his oldest son for being the catalyst behind the rink, telling BarrieToday when he was younger the two would go across the road to the park where the basketball court was flooded every year to create a small ice rink for the community.
“Jack kept asking me for a rink of our own and I just thought that was silly because we had this rink right across the road," he says.
After two full winters of pestering, Brad conceded and built the first iteration of what quickly became known around the village as “the place to be” if you loved to play hockey.
Before the pandemic, added wife Courtney, it was definitely the place where neighbourhood kids would want to come and skate.
“A lot of our immediate neighbours have started doing their own rinks now because the kids loved it so much,” she says.
Being able to stick the kids' skates on and simply send them out to the backyard also made life a bit easier for Courtney when home solo with both boys.
Both Ben and Jack want to be professional hockey players when they are old enough, and told BarrieToday they typically spend between three and four hours a day on their rink.
Ben says he “loves that he can skate on the hockey rink all day,” while Jack, who currently plays on a local rep team, likes being able to skate with his dad and having unlimited ice time to work on his skills and drills.
Despite the amount of time that goes into creating the rink each year, the Davidsons say it’s all worth it in the end.
“Having the memories for the kids is the most important thing," Courtney says. "To be able to go into their backyard and play hockey any time they want, it’s such a luxury to have. … (And) it’s a privilege to have a husband who is able to build a rink… and we know that.
“It's a real blessing for our kids, who love hockey so much, to be able to go into their yard and play. I know they don’t understand that right now, but one day they will."