Cody Oakes braced for impact because he knew what was coming. The 22-year-old hockey player found himself deep behind the enemy’s net when a defenseman checked him wrist-first into the boards. In that moment, he felt his left wrist snap and along with it, his dream to play professional hockey.

Things only got worse after he had surgery. The pain was intense and he felt his dream slipping away. Fortunately, he was then referred to hand, wrist and elbow specialist, Dr. Walter Wray, at Novant Health Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center in Winston-Salem. Wray, and his wife, Jillian, a Novant Health occupational therapist, teamed up to help their patient return to the ice.

Playing for tokens 

The Denver, Colorado, native started skating when was 3. His dad would give him and his older brother a token to the arcade for each lap they did around the ice rink.

“We are a hockey family,” Oakes said. “My dad was my coach growing up and my mom, although she hated the injuries, knew we loved it so she supported us.”

With unwavering devotion, Oakes played on travel teams growing up and ended up winning three national championships while he was in high school. His long-standing goal is to make it into the National Hockey League (NHL), or as Oakes puts it, “into the show.”

Going pro

After a three-year stint with a junior hockey team in Superior, Colorado, Oakes and his family moved to Winston-Salem in January 2018. It was there that he attended a Carolina Thunderbirds hockey game and thought to himself, “I can do this.”