CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS
With cancer gone, Titans alum Woods enjoying pro career By Phillip Brents
ormer California Titans standout Justin Woods is now a professional hockey player in every sense of the word. But there was a time when that was not so certain. Woods, who played the 2010-11 season for the Titans’ 18U team, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer following his freshman season at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (WCHA). He took a season off to undergo treatment before returning to finish a four-year career with the Nanooks. “My freshman year in college, which was 201314, I got diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma,” Woods recalled. “It’s a rare childhood cancer, soft tissue and bone cancer. I had to sit out a full year. I had nine months of chemo and one month of radiation. Luckily, ever since, I’m cancer-free. It’s quite the journey.” Indeed so. Woods, who had navigated stints in the North American Hockey League with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and in the United States Hockey League with the Lincoln Stars after receiving a launch into competitive tier hockey with the Titans, had just turned 20 when he received the bad news. About 200-250 Americans, mostly male, are diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma each year, about onein-a-million people. Woods’ particular cancer had developed as a cyst on his right knee. Woods admitted he was scared when he first got the news. The thought of losing a leg or even losing one’s life understandably put hockey in the back seat. Some cancer remained after the initial surgery
and doctors had to go back in and scrape more maWoods signed with the Jacksonville Icemen of lignant tissue off the bone. Ten months of treatments the ECHL, an affiliate of the Jets, after completing followed in Seattle. his college eligibility. He appeared in eight games Because doctors got to the cancer early, Woods for the Icemen at the tail end of the 2017-18 season, was afforded some positive thinking. recording three goals and seven points with a plusDue to the treatment regimen, Woods missed out three rating. on more than just playing for the hometown Nanooks. He generated enough interest from those numHe was unable to attend an NHL development camp bers to sign a professional tryout offer with the Amerwith the Winnipeg Jets as ican Hockey League’s Mana free-agent invitee in the itoba Moose, Winnipeg’s summer 2014. top developmental affiliate, However, he got a big and appeared in one game morale boost when the Jets with the Moose to end that sent the gear that he would season. have used in camp to him Now 24 and a strapping in Seattle as a motivating 6-foot-2, 206-pound defentool. seman, Woods signed an Following his return to AHL contract with Moose the ice in 2015-16 with the during the offseason. Nanooks, during which he Woods said he remains picked up five goals and grateful for the opportuninine points in 34 games, ty to play with the Titans Woods received an invitasome eight years ago. tion to the Jets’ 2016 deDuring the 2010-11 velopment camp. He was season with the Titans, he able to attend this time. Justin Woods skated for the California Titans during the collected eight goals and It was time to put hock- 2010-11 season and is now honing his craft with the 17 points with 47 penalty ey back on the front burner. AHL’s Manitoba Moose. Photo/Phillip Brents minutes in 24 games. During his junior season with the Nanooks, he It proved to be a launching pad to being selected to posted 12 points in 30 games. During his senior play in the 2012-13 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. season, he logged nine goals and 20 points in 34 “You play so many games down here and there’s games. a lot of good competition,” Woods explained. “You Overall, he collected 47 points (18 goals, 29 as- go to about five big tournaments throughout the sists) with 105 penalty minutes in 133 games with country, so I think that really prepared me for my next the Nanooks. step up in juniors.” CARubberHockey.com
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