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CARAVAN KEEPS ROLLING THROUGH VALLEY

by Don Schwartz / Arizona Coyotes
Coyotes’ Caravan neared its conclusion Thursday with a return trip to Gilbert, this time making a visit to Ashland Ranch Elementary School.


Members of the Coyotes’ youth hockey staff spent the entire school day with the students, putting the kindergarten-sixth graders through a series of skill-building drills. Also making the trip were radio announcers Bob Heethuis and Tyson Nash, defenseman Matt Jones, forward Brian McGrattan and Howler – who made sure the students had a fur-flying fun time. These special guests not only taught the students about the basics of the game, but also what it takes to play in the National Hockey League – namely good health, a healthy diet and regular exercise. It’s a regimen made easier by the donation of the street hockey equipment the team brought to Ashland Ranch, courtesy of the Kids First program.

Coyotes captain Shane Doan joined the Caravan in the evening to sign autographs for fans at the Desert Schools Coyotes Center in Chandler. For fans such as Darren Pfister of Mesa, whose entire family was practically donned in Doan apparel, the chance to meet No. 19 in person was a cherished opportunity – even though they had met him mere weeks ago at Jobing.com Arena.

“He’s just a great player and really gets out there in the community,” Pfister said. “He’s really approachable and very personable and that’s why we like him so much. We just always like to come out and see him and wish him good luck.”

Though Doan signed autographs for everyone who waited in line, he also snuck away for a few minutes to make a personal speech to a group of youth hockey players practicing at the rink.

“We’re so grateful for Shane to walk into our locker room and tell our kids to just have fun, skate hard and come to the rink to try to get better everyday,” said Mike Goldberg of Phoenix, an assistant coach with the Phoenix Polar Bears Mite A Travel Team. “If I were eight years old that would be a memory that I would remember forever. Now every time we practice and the kids aren’t having fun I can tell them ‘hey, remember when Shane Doan said to have fun.’ Just having that memory of the night Shane Doan came into their locker room is so special. He’s an ambassador of the game. He’s always played the game properly, always has a smile on his face and always has time for the fans.”

While Coyotes’ Caravan is nearly complete, the weeklong mobile celebration of Coyotes’ hockey is making its way back home for its grand finale – CoyotesFest. This fan-friendly festival is set for this Saturday at Jobing.com Arena from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. The free event is open to the public and features plenty of interaction with the players, such as photo opportunities and autograph sessions. There will also be fun games, contests and Howler’s Kids Club zone, plus unique one-of-a-kind Coyotes memorabilia available by silent auction benefiting Coyotes Charities.

For more information on CoyotesFest, please visit phoenixcoyotes.com.

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