In Montreal’s hockey conversation, Vanessa (Vinny) Davidson was a key contributor towards propelling the female game into unprecedented heights. Among the elite scorers of the last decade, helping to shape the dynasties of both the McGill Martlets and the Montreal Stars (rechristened as Canadiennes), such a venerated competitor was part of the game’s halcyon days in the hockey mad city, while her distinguished career was one that captured the essence of fair play and sportsmanship.
With youthful exuberance, an invigorating smile and a positive attitude that would make her the kind of individual that anyone would be proud to call a teammate, Davidson also competed with the Quebec Avalanche in the days of the original NWHL. Part of the CWHL’s 100-point club, her greatest season was in 2011-12, when she attained a career-best 49 points, on the strength of 25 assists. Also garnering CWHL Second Team All-Star honors that season, such a memorable run would culminate with the Clarkson Cup clinching goal, a concrete moment in her sporting legacy. In addition, she would reach the century mark in career points on February 8, 2014.
Gaining the privilege of hoisting both the Golden Path Trophy and the Clarkson Cup, such a sensational hockey legacy is accentuated by the fact that Davidson is also a two-sport star. Akin to several of her former teammates on the Stars, such as Emmanuelle Blais (CrossFit), Noemie Marin (Softball), Carolyne Prevost (Soccer and Taekwondo) and Dominqiue Thibault (Red Bull Crashed Ice), among others, her sporting legacy continues to grow. Having also captured gold in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Universiade, Davidson’s national championship victory earlier this year in softball accounted for a grand slam of sporting achievements.
“Winning a CIS National Championship and a Clarkson Cup was the most amazing feeling. Being able to win a National Championship in another sport was something very special. Personally, I cannot compare this Championship to the others as they all are very special to me in their own respect.”
Of note, Davidson’s youth was one that involved more than haunting numerous rinks, sowing the seeds for the hockey heroics that helped to define a ground-breaking generation. Just as prevalent was her presence on the diamond, bat imbued, and placing strong value on the important concept of sporting equality.
Having first played softball at the age of 13, Davidson also played baseball at the boys’ AA level. While Davidson balanced her love of the diamond with competitive hockey during her formative years, she temporarily retired her glove upon entry into CEGEP, as her focus was devoted to her hockey dreams.
The love of sport remains strong for Davidson, whose focus is dedicated towards an admirable career as an educator and coach, helping to inspire the next generation of women’s hockey heroes. With softball as the current domain where Davidson is extending her sporting endeavors, continuing to establish herself as a prominent competitor, the summer of 2017 provided a monumental milestone.
Excelling on the diamond, Davidson’s leadership abilities and solid work ethic were certainly key factors in her club qualifying for the 2017 NSA World Series in Hamilton, Ontario, an event worthy of her athletic gifts. Competing in the Women's Intermediate division, Davidson’s team was identified by the sobriquet, “Diamond Divas", who also participated in 2016.
Part of the club’s infield unit, playing at the shortstop position, Davidson ponders the next season with tremendous anticipation. Of note, the championship victory has enabled the club to gain entry into the Women's Competitive division for 2018, holding new challenges and exciting opportunities for further championship glories.
Possessing the competitive background in hockey, having risen to the occasion in so many key championship scenarios, it was the type of valuable experience that resulted in transforming Davidson into an essential contributor for the Diamond Divas. Helping to set a positive tone for the team’s culture, which also included longtime competitor Sue Gibson, it propelled the club into the championship conversation heading into Hamilton.
As Davidson reveals, the essence of leadership extends far beyond winning itself. Sometimes, the path to winning involves overcoming great odds, and knowing how to rebound from adversity. Such values made Davidson an encouraging presence on her team, as every game involved high stakes, consisting of the kind of pressure that separates championship teams from mere contenders,
“Yes, I did see myself as a leader. Being to other National Championships, I tried to use my knowledge of how to bounce back, stay level headed and be a good teammate in such a short high pressured tournament.”
With a gathering of talented teams boasting unique names such as Unleashed, Lady Mets Battalion and Lady Pirates, it was the Diamond Divas that punched their ticket into the Finals. Posting a winning percentage of .833 in the round robin, the club built on their momentum.
As the playoff games against opposing a pair of top-seeded teams, the Mood Swings and the Lady Cardinals, each game was won by a mercy. The mercy rule in softball involves completing a game should a team be ahead by a certain number of points after a specific inning. Said rules include a team being ahead by 20 runs after three innings, 15 after four, or seven after five innings.
The Diamond Divas would vanquish the Mood Swings by a 25-15 count, while the Lady Cardinals were defeated in a convincing 23-12 outcome. As a side note, it was their third consecutive game with 25 runs scored, resulting in a superlative total of 75 in three titanic victories. During the round robin, the club would also prevail by a 16-1 tally.
Gracing the diamond at Hamilton’s Turner Park for the championship game, Davidson and her teammates outlasted a team known as the Billets to prevail in a 16-13 final. Reflecting on the road towards this milestone in club history, Davidson recounts how the sense of camaraderie and cohesiveness strengthened with each successive game. Akin to her glory days with the Martlets and Stars, Davidson found a strong feeling of family within her softball sisters,
“I was very confident leading into the finals. Our team had one loss in the six previous games. As the tournament went on, our team chemistry grew stronger and our play became remarkable. I knew with this family, we would be leaving Hamilton with a championship ring!”
Among the hallmarks of Davidson’s distinguished hockey career was the remarkable appreciation of her teammates. Such values were evident in her softball sojourn, grateful as much for the experience itself, gaining the opportunity to share it with such a dedicated group of athletes, whose presence enriched the privilege of being crowned champions.
“My favorite part of the tournament was my team. We had such an amazing group of girls who enjoyed each other's company and who picked each other up when needed. I don't think I could have picked a better group to win the championship with.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Pink at the Rink by Alain Bellier, Clarkson Cup photo from the Caroline Ouellette Collection, Softball images from the Shawna Anderson collection