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by Russell Brooks / Arizona Coyotes
The Flagstaff Mountaineers Unified Floor Hockey Team is heading to the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in a few months with the Coyotes in their corner.

Arizona's NHL team on Saturday donated $50,000 to the Mountaineers to help fund their trip to the Games being held in Boise, Idaho, in February. Coyotes Charities presented the funds to Special Olympics Arizona on Saturday morning at the start of a nine-team floor hockey tournament inside Arena.

“For the Coyotes to go out of their way and do this for us is huge for the Special Olympics,” said Tom Fraker, the president and chief executive officer of Special Olympics Arizona.

The Mountaineers, who will represent the United States at the Games, will use the money donated by the Coyotes for equipment, uniforms, travel, hotel, training, and competition expenses for the athletes.

"It was the perfect fit for us,” Coyotes Executive Vice President of Communications Jeff Holbrook said. “This donation fits exactly what we are trying to do with Coyotes Charities.”

Many special Olympians converged on Arena for the tournament. Nine teams from around Arizona took part in a round-robin event on this momentous day that showcased the unknown energetic sport of floor hockey.

For Mountaineers goalie Margoth Carrasquilla, her goal of playing in an Olympics for a gold medal will be fulfilled.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” said Carrasquilla, who helped create the Mountaineers. “I’m excited about the opportunity to go participate and represent the United States.”

Mountaineers Coach Bruce Baldwin is excited about bringing his team to Boise.

“This is an unbelievable opportunity for the players,” said Baldwin, who has been a Special Olympics volunteer for 20 years. “It’s all about the experience for the players. I don’t think it will really hit the players until we meet in Colorado for workouts in December.”

Thanks to the Coyotes, the Mountaineers now can focus on getting ready for the Games and not worry about raising funds.

“The whole pressure of fundraising was tough for the team,” Baldwin siad. “It was a lot of money to raise especially being from Flagstaff. Once this was announced, it took the pressure off and now we can concentrate on training.”

Fraker also is excited about the opportunity to send the Mountaineers to the Games for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“Many of these adults and kids will remember this opportunity for years,” said Fraker, who noted this is the largest donation to Special Olympics Arizona by a professional sports team based in the state. “This trip will be life altering for some of them.”

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