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Lyndsey Fry is trying to move youth hockey forward in Arizona after the departure of the Coyotes

Lyndsey Fry is trying to move youth hockey forward in Arizona after the departure of the Coyotes

 


Audrey Ju met some of her best friends through hockey, knows someone at every rink she goes to and has bonded with countless families in the close-knit community.

The Arizona Coyotes' move to Utah raised questions about the future.

The Phoenix-area teen isn't worried. The NHL may be leaving, but youth hockey programs across Arizona are at a stable level.

Most programs have a strong foundation, she said. If the Coyotes had to go, I'm obviously sad about that, but the Kachinas (girls hockey program) are all set up and the other programs have been around for a while.

Still, the Coyotes' move has left a void in the Arizona hockey community.

Lyndsey Fry is trying to bridge the gap on the youth hockey side.

The 2014 Olympian founded the Matt Shott Arizona Hockey Legacy Foundation, designed to support boys' and girls' hockey programs in the Phoenix area.

The nonprofit honors former Coyotes director of hockey development Matt Shott, who helped lay the foundation for youth hockey in Arizona before his death in 2021, and will begin grant opportunities and programming. The foundation is expected to begin taking donations this month, and Fry hopes to eventually create a $10 million endowment that will provide about $500,000 a year to support youth hockey programs in the Phoenix area.

Lyndsey Fry poses at the Arizona Made Ice Forum

Associated press

Lyndsey Fry poses at the Arizona Made Ice Forum in Mesa on May 1, 2024.

There's just a lot of uncertainty right now and people are going through a lot of emotions in the hockey community with the Coyotes leaving for Utah, said Fry, founder and director of the Arizona Kachinas girls hockey programs. I think what worries a lot of people the most is, what's happening with the growth of hockey here? It's been exponential since the Coyotes got here in 1996 and we want to make sure it doesn't slow down.

Youth hockey in Arizona has been on the rise since the Coyotes arrived, going from 4,949 registered players with USA Hockey in 2002-03 to 9,716 last year. The number of rinks in Arizona has increased from two to nine, including seven in the Phoenix area.

The state has produced numerous NHL players, most notably Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews, who was born in California but grew up playing hockey in Arizona.

The Shott Foundation strives to keep that pipeline open.

When the Coyotes were still in Arizona, the NHL supported youth hockey in the state through its industry growth fund, which provided about $500,000 a year.

The Coyotes franchise could be reactivated via NHL expansion by owner Alex Meruelo if a new arena is built within the next five years, but it is unclear whether the league will continue the flow of money into the state through the IGF. Meruelo said at the Coyotes' farewell news conference that he plans to continue supporting youth hockey in Arizona until the franchise is reactivated.

Fry's plan is to advance youth hockey through the foundation and then use it to add to the IGF when NHL hockey returns to the desert.

She has made numerous connections in the hockey community over the years and will be able to lean on this in her new venture. The foundation will consist of former Coyotes Jason Demers, Greg Adams, Darcy Hordichuk and Michael Grabner. Fry has also enlisted the support of Carly Accardo, mother of late Coyotes superfan Leighton Accardo, along with Shott's mother, Shelley, and brother, Trevor.

I see the foundation as an opportunity for unity to get all the different rinks and all the different programs to understand that even though we compete against each other on the ice, we all depend on each other, said Fry, the Coyotes' hockey team. ambassador and radio analyst when the team was in Arizona. When it comes to the desert hockey ecosystem, we need to work together to grow it. That's what I hope the foundation can do.”

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