By Grace Oborne
Former NHL centreman, Cody Hodgson, still has a profound passion for the sport of hockey. Though he retired from the game early in his career, he continues to project his love for the game into other avenues.
At a very young age, Hodgson learned to skate in front of his Kashagawigamog Lake home with his family. A few years later, he played for the Haliburton Huskies in 1997, just like his father and grandfather had done before him.
“I wanted to get into the sport because my brother played, my dad played growing up. I just wanted to do what my brother was doing and hockey was always a fun sport for me. It was a great outlet for getting out energy and competitiveness that we both had,” said Hodgson.
“Cody loved playing hockey from an early age. As a toddler, he would walk around with mini sticks and balls. Before he was two, when his older brother and cousins were playing shinny on the lake, he was in there with his boots on trying to score with his own ball,” said his mother, Marie Hodgson.
Hodgson then moved on to play with the Markham Waxers AAA teams where five players eventually all played in the NHL. He also played with his brother, Clayton Hodgson, in Markham.
“I loved playing with Cody when we were younger. It was always an amazing time and we both had really good chemistry together. I think we won everything we played and actually did really well when the two of us were on the ice together,” said Clayton.
Hodgson surpassed every level and in 2006, excelled to be a first round draft pick for the Brampton Battalion where he played in the OHL for four years.
In 2008, he was then selected 10th overall in the NHL draft by the Vancouver Canucks. He moved on to play with the Buffalo Sabres in 2012 through to 2015. In 2014, he was named one of Canada’s top scorers at the IIHF World Hockey Championship in Minsk Belarus.
Unfortunately, Hodgson suffered a back injury in training and his NHL career slowly came to an end. In 2015, he signed a one year contract with the Nashville Predators to play for a season. After symptoms such as shortness of breath, blackouts, and heart arrhythmia arose, Hodgson was diagnosed with malignant hyperthermia. It is a genetic disorder that is triggered by prolonged physical activity.
At the youthful age of 26, Hodgson’s NHL competing days came to an end.
“I obviously can’t train every day and I can’t work out the same as I used to. I have to monitor everything I do, but I’m still able to do things. It is unfortunate the way it affects me that I just can’t play professional hockey, but I can do a lot of other things, and I can still enjoy my life,” said Hodgson.
“I’m pretty fortunate that I had that time in the NHL. I see the six years I get to play the NHL as a gift,” he added.
Every winter, Hodgson returns to Haliburton Lake and plays the game with family on the frozen lake. He’ll also return in the summer and will play ball hockey with his brother.
“I was very fortunate to have a supportive family. Growing up, my parents would drive me to all the different arenas and follow my career. They were happy to me to different clinics to learn and get better,” he said.
“My brother spent hundreds of hours playing with me on the street, and on the ice. We would watch hockey together, and go to different games. He and I really loved it. I was fortunate to have him and then my two sisters, obviously they weren’t even involved in the in the game, but they still went to all the games and were very supportive,” Hodgson added.
Hodgson lives in Nashville where he works with the Predators Youth Hockey program. He teaches the kids the love of the game that he first learned in Haliburton.
“I was fortunate that the Nashville Predators wanted me to oversee the youth development. I’ve been working the past five years growing the game in the state of Tennessee. We do a lot of events in the community and I help to organize those,” he said.
“About 1,300 kids will come through our program every year, and we give them free equipment and NHL alumni coaching on and off the ice for a fraction of the price of what it normally would cost. Hockey has given me so much, so it’s nice that I can give back to the youth through the game.”
Guiding children through hockey and making sure that kids are gaining experiences that will shape their youth is something that Hodgson finds joy in doing.
I tell the kids that hockey is a great game and you don’t need to play in the NHL to enjoy it. There’s a lot of things that hockey teaches. It builds character and reinforces how to get along with people,” he said.
From an early age, Hodgson has always been a dedicated competitor and has always displayed a motivated work ethic that ultimately made him an outstanding athlete.
“Cody is really determined and works hard. He’s always been competitive but never jealous, so he has always been able to fit in well with teams,” said his father Chris Hodgson.
Many years after retiring from the NHL, the Haliburton community and the Haliburton Highlands Sports Hall of Fame has continued to recognize him for all of his successes.
“It is a huge honour. I’m very humbled to be in the induction class with a lot of other great athletes from across the spectrum of sports. I’ve always been proud to represent Haliburton on the NHL stage internationally when I played the world championships and world juniors,” said Hodgson.
“I’ve had a lot of support from the town over the years. When I got in the OHL, there would be busloads of people who would come down and watch me play. It’s just a great atmosphere and environment to grow up in. I trained in Haliburton every summer. We’d bike in a town workout with Ron Stackhouse in his gym, I’d get advice from Walt McKechnie at McKecks, and when I saw Bernie Nicholls, I would ask for his advice. Those are people who inspired me and Haliburton is just a very supportive community. I wouldn’t have made the NHL if I didn’t have it, so I’m very thankful of the town and the people in it,” he said.