For the first time since she was able to skitter across the ice as a five-year-old, Sarah Davis sits on the sidelines today, her hockey career abruptly cut short last spring.
It isn’t injury that has Davis cast aside, the Daniel Cleary of her gender, the finest female hockey player to hail from this province.
Truth is, a knee or shoulder injury would probably make things somewhat easier to come to grips with as she grapples with her unplanned respite from the game.
Rather, it’s the cold, brutal reality that has Davis contemplating the here and now, and the future.
After three years as a full-time member of Canada’s national women’s hockey team, three silver medals at the IIHF world women’s championship and three silvers at the 4 Nations Cup, Davis was cut loose from Team Canada last May.
Her dream of playing in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games dashed just like that.
The news, of course, cut like a knife. Laura Schuler, the Canadian women’s team coach, essentially told Davis, now 25, she was no longer good enough to play for Canada.
“It was like a punch in the gut,” she recalls today.
There have been many tears. Emotions have run the gamut, from sorrow to bitterness to self-pity and anger.
All of it completely understandable.
Today, the pride of Paradise, the young woman with the street named after her in her hometown, is working at GoodLife Fitness as a personal trainer, and trying to get past the bitterness.
It’s a slow process, but she’s getting there.
“I hope they go,” she says of those feelings. “I’m sure they will. I’m better now than I was a couple of months ago.
“Hockey had been part of my life forever. I’ve never known what it’s like not to play hockey.”
Since joining the national team development program in 2015, when she won a gold medal at the 2015 Nations Cup in Germany, Davis had, like her one-time teammates, ate, slept and breathed the prospects on playing in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
Truth be told, it was probably her goal back when she was starring for the University of Minnesota, winning a pair of NCAA national championships whilst earning WCHA conference all-star honours.
Probably back to when she was playing in two national women’s U18 championships, and when she was game in, game out Newfoundland’s best player at the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
“Since 2014, it’s what we thought about every day,” she said of Pyeongchang. “It was always there, in the back of your mind.
“We all knew it was an Olympic year, we all knew cuts had to be made but it wasn’t something you thought about. You didn’t think it could happen to you, you know?”
During her stint with the national team, based in Calgary, Davis was a bottom six forward, a grinder and a checker who was usually replied upon to play an honest game every night.
But it wasn’t enough, apparently, in the eyes of Schuler and the team’s general manager, Mel Davidson.
No specific reason was given, she said.
Her spirit broken, Davis returned home. For the first time in three seasons, she is no longer a part of the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian women’s league, the team with which she won the Clarkson Cup in 2016, and finished runner-up for the national championship last season and her rookie year of 2015.
While the players in CWHL are paid, it’s not enough to make a living. Not even close. And because she’s no longer part of the national team, she’s no longer a Sport Canada funded athlete.
CWHL teams usually practice twice a week, and play twice on the weekends. If it’s on the road, that would mean travelling Saturday morning, playing Saturday evening, playing Sunday and heading home Sunday evening.
“It can be a grind,” she says.
Who knows now where her career is headed. Maybe she’ll rejoin the CWHL some day. Hopefully, for her sake, she finds her zest for hockey again.
Sarah Davis has a lot of to offer the game, especially in her native province where she is, for all intents and purposes, a trailblazer and heroine for the hundreds of young girls playing the game.
“The people here have been very supportive of me,” she said. “I hope to give back in time. I will be back.”
We hope so. She deserves it.
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @telyrobinshort