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Coyotes Engendering Diversity in Front Office

Team boosts and boasts of women in roles of responsibility

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

Lyndsey Fry grew up playing with the boys. As a girl in the game - playing the game - playing with the boys was the norm. In fact, in some cases, it was the only way to play the game. Hockey was, at that time and mostly for all time, a "boy's game."

So, when she was first introduced to the Coyotes front office in 2018, Fry was caught a bit off-guard.

"It was refreshing to walk into the front office when I first got here and see female executives, see women working in all areas of the organization," Fry said. "That was actually really eye opening for me, to go from a world where I was so used to being the only woman or only girl, to then walking into a professional side of hockey that I hadn't really known." 

Female representation in the Coyotes' front office is not just an idea. It is a reality.

The Coyotes have 33 full-time female employees. The number rises to 61 when the count includes part-time personnel.

Women are represented in 12 of the team's front-office departments: Community Relations, Ticketing, Production, Corporate Partnerships, Service & Retention, Marketing, People & Culture, Finance, Legal, Administration, and Hockey Operations.

Indeed, four women serve on the Executive Leadership team. Three women hold Vice Presidential roles.

The Coyotes have one of the largest female executive lineups in the NHL, and the most female executives amongst all Valley professional teams.

The four female executives are: Marina Carpenter, General Counsel/Compliance Officer/Executive Vice President, Public Affairs; Patty Frankenfield, Senior Vice President, People & Culture; Tania Moreno, Senior Vice President Marketing; Brittani Willett, Executive Director, Arizona Coyotes Foundation/Corporate & Community Impact.

The Vice Presidents are: Lindsay Kray, Vice President, Client Services & Guest Experience; Tia Meza, Vice President, Corporate Partnerships; Marissa Mast, Vice President, Social Media Strategy.

"I've never been made to feel, 'Oh, I'm a female in an executive role in a male-dominated industry," said Carpenter, a former Division-1 athlete, who earned her law degree at Arizona State. "The people that I work with have never made me feel less than or that I was just the token female."

Carpenter is in her fifth season with the Coyotes and oversees day-to-day legal needs, such as litigation and risk assessment. She also manages all contracts. She believes the organization has done well in focusing on an inclusive workplace. She also has noticed an emphasis on expanding candidate pools in hiring practices.

"I think we've recruited some people from non-traditional backgrounds," Carpenter said. "Tania (Moreno) comes to mind. She didn't have a true team sports background. She came from (a) consumer products (field). So, I think we've done a good job of looking outside the generic sports field."

Moreno oversees marketing and social media. Her Coyotes position is her first in a sports front office. She previously worked in prominent administrative positions at Mattel and PetSmart. 

"I realized that when Xavier came on, he talked about how the future of hockey, from his perspective, was young, female, and Latino," Moreno said. "You have to grow the game for people who don't know the game or aren't aware of the game. It's a tremendous opportunity; it excites me every morning when I wake up."

Moreno supervises four women in her department. 

"I'm a big believer in finding the person who has the best skills and is best fitted for a role, regardless of gender, nationality or religion," she said. "When there is a super talented person, I think it's great they're given opportunities that maybe weren't there in the past. So, I think we've progressed quite a bit." 

Brittani Willett manages the Coyotes' Foundation and oversees all community impact efforts. Willett, as Moreno, is enjoying her first foray in sports.

"I (previously) was in an industry primarily male dominated," she said. "I feel as an organization we've done a really good job of having a lot of females in leadership positions. There are so many females here who have a strong voice."

One voice, literally, resounds with Willet.

"I think this year, having Lyndsey Fry join our color analyst team was a really key move," Willett said. "That showed me that this is a priority for our organization. We are trying to be more inclusive in the front office."

The Coyotes are one of just two NHL teams with a female radio color analyst. Fry will celebrate International Women's Day on March 8 as a TV analyst for the Coyotes game on FOX Sports Arizona.

When Fry isn't wearing a radio headset, she, well, wears many hats. 

She is the Director of External Engagement, Youth & Women's Hockey. She also is President of the Arizona Kachinas, the Coyotes' official youth girls' hockey association. And she chairs the Coyotes' internal Diversity & Inclusion Committee.

In addition, Fry is one of 10 women on the NHL's Female Hockey Advisory Committee, which is a think tank of the NHL and NHLPA to accelerate the growth of female hockey in North America.

Fry believes the Coyotes have made "a huge statement" supporting and growing girls' and women's hockey in the Valley. She also believes even more can be accomplished. 

"I think we still have a way to go on the hockey operations side of things," Fry said. "The great thing is Bill Armstrong is itching for it, he's super excited about it. So, there's kind of some TBD things there. I think we can do a better job to provide opportunity (for women) on the hockey operations side."

Female representation in hockey operations was one of the first topics President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez addressed during his interview with Armstrong last summer.

"The one area where I want more female representation is in hockey operations," Gutierrez said. "And I've made that very clear to Bill Armstrong. I'm very excited that he's embraced that, he's talked about that. (During) a very early conversation I had with Bill I told him, 'We want to use our organization, our platform, to really give an opportunity to incredibly talented women in hockey.' I'm fortunate that we have an incredible representative of female hockey in Lyndsey Fry."

The women in the Coyotes' front office believe that a by-product of their work is inspiration to others. 

"I would hope that the next generation understands there are more opportunities available to them than maybe would have been 20-30 years ago," Moreno said, "that it inspires them to go after something that maybe they think they can't achieve because of gender." 

Willett and Carpenter are mentors in the Valleywise Emerging Leaders Program. 

"I wish I had had a female mentor," Willett said. "All of my mentors were male. It's important for me to make sure that I am someone that people can come to and that I am hopefully a role model. My mentorship role with the Valleywise Emerging Leaders Program was something that was really important to myself and Marina (Carpenter), to make sure that we can be showing that women can be in these roles too."

Said Carpenter: "I've been encouraged to participate with WISE (Women in Sports and Events) to make sure that our female staff feels they have the support they need and the path forward that they need."

Gutierrez believes having women at the table for creating strategies and making decisions is important to establish an authentic relationship with the community.

"The female voice in sports is incredibly important," said Gutierrez, who was selected in September to the Pro Sports Assembly Advisory Board, which aims to achieve female parity in opportunity, pay and leadership by 2030.

"When you think about who our fans are today, and who our fans are going into the future, and the growth in the female cohort, it's incredibly important to have female representation in the sports executive and sports management ranks," he said.

"I'm very happy that we have such great, incredible sports leaders within our organization," he continued. "They are just such an inspiration to other young girls, other young women, other leaders. I'm very honored, I'm very proud that we have such great women leaders in our organization."

Said Fry, rather expansively: "I think Gender Equality Month gets kind of isolated to just women. But we really want to expand our thinking on that, we want to be thinking about men, women, trans men, trans women. How are we looking at women working in predominantly male roles? How are we looking at men who are working in predominantly female roles? Let's celebrate some female officials who are doing something that's traditionally done by men. So, we're really trying to look at this in a lens beyond girls and women. Let's talk about gender equality as a whole across the entire spectrum."

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