Former Fort Frances hockey player launches hockey scholarship at Brock University

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

Ed Davis, originally from Fort Frances, was the founding coach of the hockey team at Brock University in St. Catharine’s. In September, a scholarship for Brock hockey players will be awarded for the first time in his name.

Ed Davis grew up and learned the game of hockey in Fort Frances in the 1940s and ‘50s. When he finished high school he left Fort Frances to play junior A hockey in Leamington in southern Ontario. After playing junior A he started playing senior A hockey and started attending the University of Waterloo. While there, his hockey coach Don Hayes asked Davis to help him coach the fledgling hockey program. Davis worked with the team while attending school until he was offered a job.

“I had another year to go in university when the Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical company offered me a position in St. Catharine’s calling on physicians and doctors,” Davis recounted. “So in ‘65 I moved to St. Catharine’s and started calling on the doctors and hospitals in the Niagara peninsula.”

After working a while, Davis got a call from a doctor he hadn’t met before.

“It was in ‘66, I remember it well,” Davis said. “And Dr. Gibson, the first president of Brock University, gave me a phone call and I thought it was a regular doctor. So I said, ‘you know I apologize because I wasn’t calling on you.’ But he said ‘No I’m a doctor at Brock University and I’m not in the medicine field.’”

Gibson, as it turns out, had been at a retreat for university presidents and had met the president from Waterloo. After a conversation with the president from Waterloo, Gibson had decided to start a hockey program at Brock. At that time they didn’t have an athletic director, and the only athletics the school had was rowing.

After thinking about it for a week, Davis met with Gibson and took on the volunteer role of coaching a men’s hockey team at Brock.

The role wasn’t without its challenges. As Brock was in its infancy at the time, there were only 1,000 students total, with roughly half being female, so there wasn’t a very big pool to draw from. In its first year the team had trouble finding a goaltender, Davis said.

“The first hockey team there was not a whole lot of talent on it because we just took whoever came,” Davis said. “The big problem was, my first year in ‘66 was getting a goalie. So I put a defenseman in goal who had played a little bit of goalie in bantam hockey or something, so we at least had a team to start with.”

The team played exhibition games against teams from New York state and some of the other newer Ontario schools like Niagara College and Trent University.

The next year Davis had the opportunity to write to high school programs to tell players that they might get more playing time if they came to a smaller school like Brock rather than going to a big school like the University of Toronto.

“So I sent letters out to all of the phys ed. directors of all the [schools] around southern Ontario telling them Brock’s got a team,” Davis said. “If you want to come here, you’ll get a chance to play, you go to Toronto, you’re likely to sit on the bench. So I did get some better players in ‘67.”

That year the team was invited to join Ontario University Athletics. Despite knowing they weren’t a great team and might not succeed right away, they joined anyway; they didn’t win a single game in league play that year.

In the third year they were more competitive as the school grew and had more funds available, but they still didn’t win. After that third year, Davis moved. His day job was getting busy and doing both was too much work. He turned the reins of the hockey team over to one of his assistants.

Now, the Brock Badgers have grown to be a top hockey team in the OUA. Currently they lead their division, playing against the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, Lakehead University, and York University.

Davis went on to have a successful career in pharmaceutical sales, retiring as director of sales for Pfizer Canada, which bought out Parke-Davis. Davis said he wanted to give back after everything Brock had done for him.

“I was sitting here, looking back, I’m getting near the end of my time,” Davis said. “I’m not there yet but I’ll be 82 in March. I was thinking, what could I do? I said I’m gonna do something good. I graduated finally from Brock University, I coached them, and I started their curling program too, actually. I just sat back and I said ‘I gotta give back, I gotta do something because they inducted me into their athletic hall of fame, they named the most valuable player trophy after me, and I graduated from the school.’”

Davis said he talked it over with his wife and decided that a hockey scholarship was the way to go. It was presented to the Brock University Senate and approved to be available next year. To this end, Davis has endowed a scholarship fund with $25,000.

“The university senate approved it,” Davis said. “They don’t just approve all these sorts of things. But because of my background at Brock and starting the program and all that, they felt that was a good one to have.”

The scholarship is for outstanding hockey players leaving grade 12 and will also take academics into account.

One of Davis’ biggest hopes is for a hockey player from Fort Frances to perhaps win the scholarship one day.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we got a student from Fort Frances to win that scholarship some time?” Davis said. “I’d be thrilled if somebody from up there would apply and get it.”