Leighton Accardo

Before she passed away after a valiant battle with cancer last month, 9-year-old Leighton Accardo of Gilbert was a big Arizona Coyotes fan. The team will hold a special memorial to her this year.

As 2020 came to a close, the Arizona Coyotes suffered heartbreak as Leighton Accardo of Gilbert, a 9-year-old Coyotes superfan, died after battling stage four malignant germ cell cancer since May 2019. 

In 2020, about 606,520 people died of cancer in the United States, but when it takes a life of someone who is so loved and known, it hurts even more. 

Leighton played youth hockey for the Arizona Kachinas, which is run by the Arizona Coyotes, and signed a one-day contract with the ‘yotes before a game against the Calgary Flames. 

To honor her life and legacy, the Coyotes will host Skatin’ for Leighton, featuring Lyndsey Fry, the Arizona Kachinas Hockey Association president.

During the event, Fry will rollerblade across the Valley, stopping at hockey rinks along the way. It’s 96 miles – in honor of the Coyotes coming to the Valley in 1996. 

“I’m going to start at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, then I’ll be going to AZ Ice Arcadia, Ice Den Chandler, AZ Ice Gilbert, Coyotes Community Ice Center, Oceanside in Tempe and then up to the Ice Den in Scottsdale, over to the Peoria rink and ending at Gila River Arena,” Fry said. 

“It is probably going to take me about 11 or 12 hours, so I’m probably thinking I’m going to go from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.”

The event’s date will be set after the NHL releases its official schedules for next season. Fry is hoping people will meet her along her journey across the Valley. 

The event was planned before the death of Leighton, whose parents are Jeremy, the New York Mets’ assistant pitching coach, and Carly Accardo

“It was going to be more of a season kickoff and a small fundraising component in honor of Leighton, but when we found out how sick she really was and how little time she had left, it was like a full 180, we’re going all in on this,” Fry said.

 “I’m thankful that I am able to use my platform to make a difference and ensure that her legacy stays alive forever.”

Leighton’s legacy includes her involvement in and her love for women’s sports, especially youth hockey.

The youngster wore No. 49 for the Arizona Kachinas, and the Coyotes are considering retiring the number. The Leighton Accardo Scholarship fund has also been introduced to help get young girls involved in and excited about hockey. 

“There’s been a lot of talk of growth in the sport, and how do we get young girls involved in hockey and trying it out,” said Fry.

Fry is also the Coyotes’ director of external engagement and female hockey. 

The Coyotes are hoping to raise $49,000 for the scholarship fund, to honor the Leighton’s number. So far, almost $10,000 has been raised, and Fry expects to meet the goal.  

“I think we will continue to have waves of donations coming through,” Fry said. “I’ve had a number of people reach out to me who want to donate, but they just haven’t had the chance to yet.

“I think we are also going to get corporate sponsors who are going to want to donate to this cause.”

Information: nhl.com/coyotes/community/skatinforleighton.