Davis overcomes hip surgery to be No. 1 pick in NWHL draft

Playing professionally, let alone returning to the ice, was the last thing on Sammy Davis’ mind following her sophomore season when the Boston University women’s hockey forward sat out an entire year after having both hips surgically repaired.

Some three years later, the 23-year-old was signing her first pro contact Friday, a few days after being selected by the Boston Pride with the No. 1 pick in the National Women’s Hockey League draft.

“I couldn’t have imagined what my future would hold, and I think a lot of it had to do with perseverance and motivation from the people around me,” Davis told The Associated Press.

“My heart is just so full with how I feel,” she added. “It’s pretty surreal. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity, and I get to play in my own city.”

Davis joins the Pride after a senior season in which she led the Terriers with 17 goals and 41 points in 36 games, and earned a Hockey East first-team selection. The 5-foot-4 forward enjoyed an even better season as a junior, in which she led the conference with 25 goals and finished second with 52 points.

It marked a tremendous comeback for the 2016 Hockey East rookie of the year runner-up, whose career was placed on hold after the hip pain Davis experienced during her sophomore season was the result of a bilateral labral tear.

“There were definitely a lot of low points,” Davis said.

“I think physically, as athletes, we’re told to be tough and to hold in our emotions,” she said. “But honestly, that year, I was struggling mentally. It was definitely a challenge.”

The Pride were so interested in selecting the player from Pembroke, Massachusetts, they dealt first- and second-round picks in next year’s draft as part of the deal to acquire the No. 1 choice in a trade with expansion Toronto.

“As talented and determined as Sammy is on the ice, her selflessness and leadership make her a perfect fit for the team we are building,” said Pride GM Karilyn Pilch, who knew Davis after previously serving as BU’s director of hockey operations.

The Pride are coming off a 23-1 regular-season and were preparing to play the Minnesota Whitecaps for the Isobel Cup, before the championship game was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now Davis has the benefit of playing in her own backyard, while also beginning to pursue her doctorate in occupational therapy at BU.

She doesn’t think it’ll be an issue balancing her studies and turning pro, by saying: “I’m just trying to think of it like I’m going to college and still playing in a Division I sport.”

At the very least, Davis can reflect back on the challenges she overcame following surgery.

“I had this fire under me that fueled me, and I just wanted to be the best version of myself,” Davis said. “Because I took the whole year off, I really loved hockey again.”

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