Cody Woodward is following his dreams of playing professional hockey.The former Edward Little hockey player’s dream is taking him to Bulgaria, where he will begin his professional hockey career in September. He has signed on to play for the defending Bulgarian Hockey League champions Irbis-Skate Sofia.

Former Edward Little/Maine Wild hockey player Cody Woodward is photographed before an EL practice at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn in this 2017 Sun Journal file photo. He has signed a contract to play professional hockey in Bulgaria. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“(My family) is definitely excited. They tell me all the time to chase my dreams and goals,” Woodward said. “That has been definitely a goal of mine for a while.”

Woodward also had college hockey programs that were looking in to bring him in to play, but he said he has been out of school for a couple of years.

The 21-year-old defenseman found out about the opportunity through a former teammate and an agency he just signed with after spending a season in the Greater Metro Hockey League in Canada, an independent league which considers itself a junior league.

The league allows players 16 to 21 years old to play, while most junior leagues allow players ages 16 to 20.

“I just signed with 93 Hockey Services, which is a hockey agency in the US. I was signed with an agent in Canada, he was finding me teams in Sweden,” Woodward said. “Then one of the kids I played with last season in Canada told me about this agency and he was signed to (Irbis-Skate Sofia). Then I got in contact and he messaged the team with my highlight video and they messaged me back the same day.”

Former Edward Little/Maine Wild hockey player Cody Woodward is photographed before an EL practice at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn in this 2017 Sun Journal file photo. He has signed a contract to play professional hockey in Bulgaria. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

That teammate was Kyle Weeks, who was also a teammate of Woodward with the Maine Wild of the North American 3 Hockey League in 2018-19. They both signed with the Temiscaming Titans (Quebec) of the GMHL at the start of the 2019-20 season before getting traded to the New Tecumseth Civics (Ontario) in January.

This past season, Woodward had five goals and 10 assists in 34 games played.

The GMHL is also the league that Drew Lupardo and Jared Pelletier, two other former Edward Little players, competed in.

Playing in the GMHL, Woodward said he got accustomed to most of his teammates speaking in another language, as the Titans had a lot of French-speaking players. He also had some Russian teammates. Last year, Irbis-Skate Sofia had three Russians on the team.

“It’s definitely different at first,” Woodward said. “They usually try to help you out as much as they can. We played with a couple of Russian kids, so they will help me out with my Russian if I need it.”

As the Bulgarian Hockey League champions, Irbis-Skate Sofia will enter the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Continental Cup, a season-long tournament against other champions from other European countries like the United Kingdom, France, Latvia, Denmark and Ukraine, to name a few.

Woodward said Sofia is a vacation town in Bulgaria, so he’s excited to be living in that part of the country.

“It’s in a really nice area, it’s a good tourist place,” Woodward said. “It’s like the biggest (city) in Bulgaria, so that got me intrigued.”

Players need to arrive to the team by Sept. 15 and Woodward said the team has answered his concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

“Not so much anymore,” Woodward said. “At first it was a big concern, but they pretty much have said that it’s going down slowly over there. It’s going to be different and difficult, I just hope it doesn’t spike up again.”


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