TEMPE – Hockey Fights Cancer night hits home for the Arizona Coyotes. One of the organization’s own died from liver cancer in December of last year.
Roughly 5,000 pink rally towels were placed on each seat at Mullett Arena in anticipation of the Coyotes’ game against the Florida Panthers Tuesday night. Each towel had the printed words “I FIGHT FOR” and a space below for fans to write the name of a cancer patient to honor.
On this night, and every night, the Coyotes are fighting for the late Matt Shott.
The team’s former Vice President of Hockey Development left a lasting impression on the Coyotes franchise and Arizona hockey. The rise of girls hockey, in particular, would have struggled without Shott’s guiding hand.
The Coyotes held a special pregame ceremony honoring Shott’s life nearly a year after he passed away. Fittingly enough, on the night they honored Shott, the team also won its first game at Mullett Arena.
“He was a big piece for our organization,” Coyotes coach André Tourigny said after the Coyotes beat the Florida Panthers, 3-1. “So that was cool to get the first win on a night like that where he was honored. I think the timing was really good.”
Fans watched a video montage narrated by Lyndsey Fry, the Coyotes’ senior director of hockey development and radio analyst, highlighting a letter Shott wrote to the organization giving thanks to the team.
“Thank you for allowing me to be such a big part of the hockey community in Arizona,” he wrote. “Thank you for always making me feel at home. Thank you for always greeting me with a smile and making me feel like a part of your family. Thank you for trusting me to give your kids, and adults, an enjoyable experience with hockey. Thank you, for allowing me the privilege to allow me to coach you on the ice.”
Fry had a close-knit relationship with Shott through years of working together. The two built a platform for girls hockey through the “Arizona Kachinas” program, a league designed for girls to play the sport they love.
There were 893 girls registered to play youth hockey in Arizona in 2021-22, according to USA Hockey. In 2020-21, 634 girls were registered. The increase in participation highlights Shott’s impact on the game’s growth and his commitment and dedication to prove hockey is for everyone.
The Coyotes returned the favor and more Tuesday night by expressing their gratitude for what Shott brought to the organization.
In tribute, Shott’s name and number (94) were hung across all the state’s hockey rinks. During warmups, Coyotes players wore custom Shott jersey’s that will be auctioned off through the Coyotes Care Foundation. Shott’s mother and brother dropped the ceremonial puck between Coyotes forward Christian Fischer and Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov.
The Coyotes’ victory was highlighted by their special teams. They scored two power-play goals, adding on to their third-ranked power-play percentage (32.4% ) in the NHL.
Arizona has scored 11 power-play goals in nine games this season. For comparison, last season’s team needed 30 games to reach to 10 power-play goals.
Coyotes forward Nick Ritchie’s fourth power-play goal of the season was the difference in Tuesday’s third period.
“I think we’re just simplifying and taking what they give to us,” Ritchie said. “It hasn’t been perfect, we’ve made a lot of mistakes on it, but we seem to keep coming back and keep trying, and they eventually go in for us.”
The Coyotes’ penalty kill was a perfect 3-for-3, which included timely saves by goaltender Karel Vejmelka and strong defensive play overall. In one shift, Coyotes forward Travis Boyd blocked a shot, fell to his knees and pushed the puck out of the zone in one motion.
“It’s unbelievable,” Vejmelka said. “Especially our star guys [blocking shots]. It’s a part of the game and if we want to win again we have to do the same thing – big part of a winning team.”
The team hopes to carry the winning momentum into Thursday’s home game against the Dallas Stars.
And somewhere, they hope Shott is looking down and smiling at his jersey hanging inside Mullett Arena. For the rest of the Coyotes’ time in Tempe, he is the team’s honorary forward.