PELHAM, Ala. – Shortly after signing with the Birmingham Bulls for his fifth season in the SPHL with the Birmingham Bulls, I was able to sit down with fan-favorite Mike Davis.
I always like to start interviews with players at the start of their hockey journey, so my first question was, what age did you start getting into hockey and start playing the game? Also, when did you decide that you wanted to pursue a professional career in hockey?
MD – For me, I had basically been skating since I was three years old. Hockey has been kind of my whole life up to this point. I played back home with the Delaware Ducks for 12 or 13 years, and I want to say. Growing up in Delaware, you don’t really know too much about hockey and how hockey worked. When I was younger, I was like, alright, I will play for this travel team as long as I can, and after that, I will go to the NHL. As soon as I got older, I was like, WOW, that is not the case or how it works. So after that, I played a year for the Philadelphia Little Flyers AAA team; after that, I ended up playing for the junior team for the Little Flyers in the Atlantic Junior Hockey League. The year after that, I ended up getting drafted to the Amarillo Bulls (NAHL) and ended up playing three years there. After that, I ended up coming back home and played in college at Neumann University for two years before I transferred to Stevenson University for two years.
FPH – Tell me a little bit about your experience playing junior hockey in Amarillo for the Bulls there.
MD – For me, I honestly didn’t know what I was getting into, I knew it was a higher level, and I wanted to pursue that. I didn’t know what kind of hockey I was getting into, which is pretty funny, actually. For me, I thought I was just going to go there and play hockey. I get there, and the first preseason there were like four or five fights right off the bat; I was like, where am I? You know, back home, it’s not like that and not really what I was accustom to. I was kind of blown away by that, and it was more of me trying to adapt my game to where it would fit playing there. It ended up being the best three years of my life there. We ended up winning a national championship there; I was able to play with a lot of great players there and some great coaches. That was kind of eye-opening to the hockey world; I was playing with guys from all over the world, there were trades and just stuff that I wasn’t used to. I truly enjoyed every second of it and Amarillo ended up really becoming like a second home to me, which was pretty cool.
FPH – So your last year playing there, you were the captain, was that your first time being put into a leadership role on a team?
MD – Yea, actually, that was the first time I had ever had a letter on my jersey, so that was a really cool experience. It was a nice little jump, but being a returning player and kind of knowing how everything worked and how to read all the new guys, it was something different for me, but it was something that I was willing to accept the challenge and enjoyed doing.
FPH – After that, as you said, you moved onto Neumann University. Tell me about your two years there and what that was like?
MD – So, at the time, going DIII was my best option, and I actually had a friend who was in the same boat as me, so I texted him and asked what his plans were. He was playing in Alaska at the time, and I asked if he would consider going back home and play at Neumann. He said that sounded great, so we ended up going there. I honestly didn’t know what to expect the hockey to be when I showed up after coming out of the NAHL. I just went into it full version of me and played the same way I played back in the NAHL.
I remember my first game, and I got like four penalties for boarding, checking, and roughing. I was like, “wow, they are never going to let me play a game again.”
My coach came up to me after the game and was said, “Hey, I know the style you play; you kinda have to pick and choose your moments, though.” I thought I was going to get yelled at and get skated the next morning. After that first game and not really expecting it to be the way it was, I stood back and realized, “wow, this is actually really good hockey, and there are some really great players.” It really changed my mind quickly, and I knew this was a really good competition. You have to put way more effort into it than I actually thought, and that was great.
FPH – After two years at Neumann, you transferred over to Stevenson University. Share a little about why the transfer, as well as your time there.
MD – The transfer was all hockey-related, there was a coaching change at Neumann after my freshman year there, and he actually took the job at Stevenson after that. At the time, I felt like going to Stevenson and play for the coach who gave me the opportunity my freshman year would give me a better opportunity to move me along. I didn’t have anything against anyone at Neumann, though; it just came down to how I felt which coach could help me move my career along. With Stevenson, it was also going to be a first-year program, so it was kind of cool to be a part of that.
FPH – What did you study in college?
MD – So that’s another interesting story (he said while laughing). I went in undecided and then eventually decided to go with communication while at Neumann. I went into a meeting with my advisor my sophomore year, and she told me that after looking at all my credits, I could actually graduate the first semester of my junior year. I was like, “well no, I want to play hockey. So I am here for four years.”
Then I transferred that year and went to my visit at Stevenson. At that point me and my buddy ended up doing film and the first year went by really well. We went in to schedule our classes for senior year, and my advisor said, “Hey, I see that you’re going to be a senior, but technically in our track right now, you are a sophomore.” I was informed if I want to graduate with a film degree, I will have to come back a whole extra year. My instant reaction was, that’s not happening. There is no way I’m going a whole extra year of school without hockey. So I got on the phone and called my coach, explaining the situation.
Eventually, it ended up working out, and my degree is in interdisciplinary studies, and my two studies were film and communication. The whole situation made me kind of grow up and realize you have to look into the future a little bit and can’t just focus on the now.
FPH – After the college season ended for you that same season, you found yourself in Birmingham playing for the Bulls. Tell me about how that all came to be.
MD – I think I went about a week in between the season-ending at Stevenson and playing in Birmingham. At the time, I was trying to figure out where I go now? A few days went by, and I was doing school full time. I said to myself, alright, I can’t do this, I can’t just do school without playing hockey. So I texted a few people I knew in the SPHL who played for different teams. I just asked, what’s the situation with your teams? The buddy in Birmingham got back to me the fastest, and then I got in touch with [Jamey] Hicks. I talked to him for a little bit and told him I was in. He asked how I was going to get down there, and I told him I could be there tomorrow. It’s funny, though, how it worked out because when I was driving down there, my buddy in Pensacola got back with me, and I had to tell him nope, too slow I’m already on my way to Birmingham. They had a few injuries at the time, and Hicksey was straight with me and told me he couldn’t guarantee me anything, but there are a few spots open now. And the rest is history, and I’m still here!
Playing here was also a whole new learning curve after playing college. It was a whole different style and speed, so it took me a few games to kind of figure out the pace and everything. It was a great challenge to take on, and I’m still a Bull, so I guess I’m doing something right.
FPH – So in those first 11 games you played, you ended up with seven points. To me, it seems like it didn’t take you long to figure it out at all.
MD – Yea, well, it was more of just the style of how the game is played in the SPHL. At the end of the day, when you’re playing hockey, you’re playing hockey. So it was more of learning the speed and playing pro, which is a lot slower than the run and gun college style.
FPH – You are coming into your fifth year now in Birmingham. What is it about the team and city that keeps bringing you back?
MD – For me, the city has been great with everything, and the fans have been fantastic. I know we have had some good years and rough years, but they have always been there. Really though, at the end of the day, it’s more of creating that family feeling and feeling like you are at home when you’re there. I feel like Birmingham has done an outstanding job of having that effect on me, and I appreciate that. You always feel welcome when you’re around the rink, and everyone is also saying hi and asking how you are. Especially off the ice, that’s kind of what just makes me feel at home there. The ownership has always been great and is excellent. It would be hard to leave a place where they have been so good to you, and you have been treated so well. At the end of the day, all I want to do is give back to the team, the ownership, and the fans in Birmingham.
FPH – Do you have any favorite moments in Birmingham heading into your fifth season?
MD – Definitely the playoff push that year we made it all the way to the Presidents Cup Finals. That whole playoff run was very memorable to me. Just how the first two series we played, we went down the first game, and then we just battled back. Another one that pops up would be that past legends night that we had, which was a very memorable game as well. Everything just kind of went in our favor that night. As you know from following our games, we didn’t have that many favors this past year, so that was just a great night. That night everything just fell in line for us. The fans were great and how we won that game was just one of those you definitely can’t forget.
FPH – Do you have any pregame rituals or meals you stick to during the season?
MD – I know when I was younger, I always stuck to specific times and whatnot, but I have loosened up a little bit as I get older. It’s different now, though, sometimes maybe I will stop and get a hoagie, sometimes I will stop at McAlister’s and get a French dip. Then, the night before, I might have some Salmon and vegetables. Really though, for me, it’s just based on how I’m feeling that morning after our skate. Besides that, I love to sleep, so I always take a nice little pregame nap.
When I get to the rink, everything just kind of falls in line with stretching and tapping my stick, nothing really out of this world or crazy though going on. There is one thing though I guess, if we lose the suit that I am wearing, I won’t wear it for like the next month. The thing about that is that not good because I only have two suits (he says while laughing), so sometimes I just change up the color of the shirt or tie or maybe the shoes.
FPH – The last question I have for you is an easy one. Growing up, did you have a favorite NHL team and player?
MD – Yea, I’m a Flyers fan 100%. It’s a love-hate relationship, and I can tell you that! Growing up, my favorite Flyer was Simon Gagne; he was the player that I watched all the time. He was my favorite, and I had the jersey shirts. I also have a signed puck from him. He was really my favorite player growing up.
As I got older, though, it was more of kind of watching as a player more than a fan at times, and obviously, I’m a Flyers fan. So as a fan, I hate [Sidney] Crosby, but as a player, you watch him, and you’re like, wow, I should watch him and see what it is that he does. You don’t realize this stuff when you’re younger, but when you’re older, you kind of learn to watch these NHLers as a player instead of a fan sometimes. When I was getting a little older, Ovi [Alex Ovechkin] came into the league, and I became a big Ovi fan; that was about the time I realized I should probably stop hating players and start watching their game and try to incorporate some of what they do into my game as well.
Well, there you have it, be sure to pay attention when #22 is on the ice this coming season. He has proven to be one of if not the best two-way forward in Birmingham year after year.
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