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'Bigger Than Hockey': Coyotes' Community Endeavor at St. Mary's Food Bank

Ahron Cohen and John Chayka assist Gov. Doug Ducey, Valley leaders at St. Mary's Food Bank

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

In an effort led by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Coyotes President and CEO Ahron Cohen and President of Hockey Operations and General Manager John Chayka took part in a service commitment at St. Mary's Food Bank on Friday morning in downtown Phoenix.

Cohen and Chayka, along with many other Valley leaders including the National Guard and State Treasurer Kimberly Yee, assisted Governor Ducey in packaging emergency food kits for those in need. Many communities face supply shortages amid the coronavirus developments.

As a result, there has been an immediate stress put on the food bank system.

"The overall goal was to raise awareness, to try to spread to our spheres of influence how important it is to be thinking of this issue," Cohen said. "Hopefully everybody can do what they can to make a donation or volunteer to package goods if they can, if they're healthy, if they're not part of a vulnerable group that has heightened exposure to COVID-19."

Many grocery stores in the Valley have been under extreme duress over the past few days.

"The governor was looking for support for the food bank," said Chayka. "In these tough times, everyone has been binge buying food, hoarding food, and it's a difficult time here. We wanted to go out and show our support and make sure that no Arizonans are going hungry. We packed some food, it was all moving pretty fast, I got a lot of boxes packed and out to people in need, it was good to show some support and get out to help the community."

While the NHL and all of professional sports remain on pause, Cohen still sees the Coyotes, like many other organizations, as having the ability, the network, and the voice to have a pivotal purpose.

"You think about 'what does it mean to be a sports franchise, what is it?'," Cohen asked, rhetorically. "We talk about it all of the time, it's about being a community asset. Sports has always been a great vehicle for bringing people together, to rally behind a common purpose, to take people's minds off of other challenges that they're maybe facing in their day-to-day lives."

But now those challenges are being faced without the convenience and entertainment of the sport itself.

"This is obviously bigger than hockey, bigger than sports," Chayka added. "Hockey's on pause and the focus is now on our community and keeping everyone safe, and I thought today was a great endeavor by everyone. It's tough times for a lot of people, but to be able to come together as a community and help one another out, that's hopefully the silver lining in all of this."

Though there are no games to be played right now, there is a belief within the team that there is still a responsibility to perform.

"There's a role for us, we have a sphere of influence, we have an opportunity to bring awareness to important issues and step up and be leaders in our community," Cohen stressed. "We can help rally this community and get through this together."

Helping those in and around the greater Valley area is the big-picture priority rooted from today's food bank efforts.

"That's what we're going to continue to focus on, and that's what we'll focus on until we're seeing this all in the rear-view mirror and back to playing hockey games. I see it as a core mission of what we're about during this time."

"Together I know we're going to get through all of this."

Photo Credits [All]: Janelle Etzel - Arizona Coyotes

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