PHOENIX — The Arizona Coyotes celebrated the life of one of their front office employees credited with helping grow the game in the Valley for those who may not have otherwise ever played hockey.
For those who came to Gila River Arena to celebrate the life of Coyotes VP of operations, Matt Shott, many were not in traditional black clothing.
Instead of dressing in black, those who attended sported hockey sweaters, sitting center ice taking in how Shott shared the love for the game with those who may have never known what a 'power play' was —if it wasn't for him.
“When you’re tired, just keep pushing because that’s what Matt would have wanted,” said Savannah Allen, wearing her Kachinas jersey.
Allen is one of the many teen hockey players who are part of the Kachinas, an all-girls team started by Shott’s grassroots effort to grow the game across Arizona.
“He made it possible for me to drive two hours for practice and be on that team,” said Allen.
Convincing teen girls to suit up and hit the ice was a little easier with Shott’s lifelong friend, Valley-native and U.S. Olympian Lyndsey Fry.
“It felt like we were raising these kids together and who doesn’t like to brag about their kids,” said Fry, talking about the Kachinas.
Just days before Christmas, on Dec. 19, Shott lost his battle with cancer.
While his decade-long career was behind the scenes for the Coyotes, he knew cancer could put a time limit on life.
So when 9-year-old Leighton Accardo battled the disease herself, Shott helped put together an unforgettable day for the young Kachinas. It was a day that included meeting the players, dropping the puck at center ice, and signing a one-day contract to be a Coyote.
Her mother, Carly, said on that day, "Leighton forgot she had cancer."
“I know they are together now, and it brings me comfort to know she has a friend,” said Carly, envisioning Shott and her daughter hanging out together.
“That’s exactly what Matt did, he changed lives, he made an impact and we’re all better for it,” said Arizona Coyotes CEO and President Xavier Gutierrez.
A few of the Kachinas say last year, the all-girls team made it all the way to Nationals. When they didn’t bring home the trophy, some of the girls say Shott told them this season there was “unfinished business.”
The girls say this year they’ll make sure to finish the job and bring home the trophy in honor of Coach Shott.