Torch passed at Hockey Canada, Davidson reflects on move to Own The Podium

Torch passed at Hockey Canada, Davidson reflects on move to Own The Podium

CALGARY — Melody Davidson says she’s received a few text messages telling her “I didn’t see this coming.”

After more than a quarter century as a coach, manager and mentor in women’s hockey domestically and internationally, Davidson is taking her skills to summer sport with Own The Podium.

Davidson was the chief architect of Canada’s back-to-back Olympic gold medals in women’s hockey in 2006 and 2010 as head coach and manager.

She shifted out of coaching, but continued to manage the national squad that claimed gold again in 2014, and silver in 2018.

OTP is bringing the 57-year-old from Oyen, Alta., on board as a summer-sport high-performance adviser.

“I just feel right now I’ve got more to give,” Davidson told The Canadian Press on Friday.

“This is a tremendous opportunity. Going to be a steep learning curve for sure. I feel like it will be great to re-energize me.”

Own The Podium provides technical expertise to national sport organizations.

OTP also makes funding recommendations directing $70 million annually in Sport Canada money to winter and summer Olympic and Paralympic sport based on medal potential.

Davidson has worked with Hockey Canada over 28 years, first as a volunteer and contract coach before becoming a full-time employee in 2005.

She’s involved in men’s hockey too as a consultant for the Western Hockey League’s Winnipeg Ice, and was previously an assistant coach in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

Davidson stepped back from managing the national women’s program in 2018.

She continued as head scout while mentoring Gina Kingsbury, a woman she coached to a pair of Olympic gold medals and who took over for her director of national women’s teams.

Davidson felt ready to do something different. She wasn’t sure what that was. The COVID-19 pandemic that shut down hockey and travel in March gave her time to take stock.

OTP had openings on its summer-sport, high-performance staff this year. David Mirota left for the Canadian Olympic Committee and Jean-Philippe Lavoie headed to Wheelchair Rugby Canada.

OTP wanted team-sport expertise in its next hire.

Eight teams and five para-teams have qualified so far for the Tokyo Games postponed to 2021 because of the pandemic.

“It’s like the perfect storm,” Davidson said. ”As I started to think about what could be next, post-Olympics Own The Podium usually has some movement. Maybe this is the time?

“They posted the high-performance adviser job with a sole focus on team sport. I’m thinking ’is this ever going to happen again?’”

Davidson’s OTP portfolio will include men’s and women’s rugby and basketball, as well as men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball and rugby.

She’ll work with all team sports, however, according to OTP summer-sport director Mark Hahto.

“There are so few people in the sport system that can boast her level of excellence,” Hahto said. “I’ve always thought having a person like her on the summer staff would be a game-changer to be frank. Her innate knowledge of team sport is profound.”

Davidson’s last day with Hockey Canada is June 30. She’ll transition to OTP the following day. She’d like to stay involved in hockey and continue to serve on the International Ice Hockey Federation’s women’s committee if she can.

Davidson was the IIHF’s lead coaching mentor between 2010 and 2014 in a program to improve international women’s hockey.

“I don’t feel like I’m done with hockey,” Davidson said. “Maybe I am because this may take me down a totally different road.”

The move to OTP takes Davidson back to her roots in some ways. She was a recreation director before her hockey career.

“Multi-sport is where I came from. I was small town. I played sports. I coached all of them,” Davidson said.

“I’m pretty excited about the opportunity to get back into multi-sport and especially, hopefully, leave an impact on Canadian sport and not just hockey.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2020.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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