When Wilmington’s Codie Hazen told his parents he was transferring to the University of Delaware, he left out that the primary reason was to pursue figure skating.

“I told them that I wanted to be a physical therapist — which is not wrong,” Hazen said. But Delaware also had an ice skating team and good coaches.

Now, Hazen is returning to the area as a Disney on Ice skater, ready to perform in the annual holiday performances at the Wells Fargo Center.

Hazen’s mother was an ice dancer in college, so she made sure he knew how to skate “enough to go to birthday parties without hanging on the wall the whole time.” But competitive figure skating is expensive, and Hazen’s family did not have the money to allow him to pursue it as far as he wanted.

For years, the dream lurked in the back of his mind. Once he left for college and got a job, Hazen realized that if there was a time to give the dream a chance, it was now because he “obviously wasn’t getting any younger,” and it’s a sport in which most athletes start young.

After moving back to Delaware, Hazen was “lucky” to find a coach who was willing to take on a skater of his age and inexperience. Under three-time Olympian Viktor Pfeifer’s tutelage, Hazen won the 2019 novice men’s collegiate national championship. Transferring from SUNY Geneseo, changing majors, working, and training lengthened Hazen’s track to graduation, but it was “definitely nothing I wouldn’t do again.”

Even with competitions and medals under his belt, Hazen knew he wouldn’t be able to compete on the world stage, so he started considering show skating. He knew Disney on Ice was a thing, but he didn’t know it was an option.

Then the pandemic hit. The world went virtual, Disney on Ice included. When Hazen heard all that was required was a video, a resume and some photos, he thought: “Why not?”

Hazen sent in his application, and then, after months went by without word, wrote it off. When the acceptance email eventually came in, Hazen was shocked — but in the best way possible.

In October, Hazen packed his bags and began training with Disney on Ice. With the two suitcases each skater is allowed, he began traveling the country, hitting a different city almost every week.

In addition to getting to perform and bring Disney stories he loved growing up to life, Hazen has enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside an international cast, with skaters from as far as Japan. Through them, he has been exposed to many techniques and has learned to be more fluid with his routine, especially in warmups.

The cast of 71 skaters is accompanied by six athletic trainers. Megan Holton, a former dancer who brought her passion for performance to athletic training by working with figure skaters, is one of them. One of the things she preaches is the importance of the warmup. She uses her personal experiences with dance, as well as her training in many sports, to help the skaters, since athletic training for performers is a relatively new field.

Holton said she has seen how Hazen’s passion for skating shines through in every performance. Hazen said performing is a great way to share his love, but he also tries to do so through coaching other aspiring skaters.

Having taken an offbeat path to the stage, Hazen has a different perspective on training and the sport.

“I learned so much through my own experience and being an adult and trying to learn to skate, which is much, much harder than if you start as a child,” Hazen said. “And I wanted to be able to give that to both kids and adults.”

When he joined Disney on Ice, Hazen had to set up many of his students with other coaches at Center Ice of Oaks since he wouldn’t be able to work with them in person. He has kept in touch with many of them and does virtual lessons or cuts music for those who want it.

After two months traveling across the West Coast and Midwest, Hazen and the show are finally returning to the area. Many of his students have bought tickets to see their coach perform professionally.

“I hope that it’s inspiring for them to have worked with a coach that’s in Disney on Ice,” Hazen said. “It will be nice for them — and for me.”

To see Hazen and the other skaters bring Disney on Ice to life at the Wells Fargo Center, visit https://www.disneyonice.com/tickets.