Mavs bring back All-Star Justin Woods

Bill Althaus
Defenseman Justin Woods, who represented the Kansas City Mavericks in the 2020 ECHL All-Star Classic last season, re-signed with the ECHL team Thursday.

Justin Woods, who represented the Kansas City Mavericks at last year’s ECHL All-Star Classic, has never met new coach Tad O’Had in person.

But the defenseman feels like the two developed made a special bond over the phone.

“The first time I talked with Coach O’Had on the phone I felt like I knew him,” said Woods, who signed a contract for the 2020-21 season Thursday. “He seems like a player’s coach, a guy who’s going to stand up for his guys.

“And it’s kind of funny, I actually played against him a few years back, and I know he knows everything there is about the game of hockey. After talking to him, it made me even more excited about the start of the season.”

Woods, a 6-foot-2, 212-pound native of Fairbanks, Alaska, returns to the Mavericks after a solid 2019-20 campaign.

In 42 games with the Mavericks last year, Woods led the defensive unit with 25 points on four goals and 21 assists. Woods also earned a call-up to the Laval Rocket of the American Hockey League last season and has played in 11 AHL games over the course of his three-year career.

Woods was selected as the Mavericks’ All-Star representative, but was unable to participate due to injury. He was also selected as one of the team’s assistant captains for the 2019-20 season.

“Justin is exactly the type of player we want in KC,” O’Had said. “He can be one of the top D-men in the ECHL and most importantly, he leads by example.”

That comment is special for the three-year pro.

“I always felt like if you led by example, teammates and coaches would pay more attention to you,” Woods said. “I want to make an impact on the ice and in the community, and I am so excited to be coming back to play for the best organization and the best fans in the ECHL.”

O’Had has done his homework in the offseason and said everyone raved about Woods.

“He’s an excellent teammate and an outstanding representation of the Mavericks on and off the ice,” O’Had said. “Former coaches rave about him. We are extremely pleased to have Justin coming back. We are looking for great things out of him.”

In two-plus ECHL seasons, Woods has accumulated 52 points on 16 goals and 36 assists in 94 games.

Woods is a five-year survivor of Ewing sarcoma, an extremely rare pediatric bone cancer. He was diagnosed with the disease in 2014, following his freshman year at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and missed the entire 2014-15 season to undergo treatment. Woods was given the all clear and officially cured of the disease last winter, as he has been cancer-free for more than five years.

“I feel great,” Woods said, “although this COVID-19 thing is scary. Our gym here in Fairbanks is closed and I’m taking every precaution, because I feel like we all have something to prove after a disappointing season last year.

“I can’t wait to get back to Independence to get to work because I think Coach O’Had is going to do some great things with our team.”