GLENDALE - Lou Monaco, the beloved parking lot attendant for the Coyotes coaches, players and their families, worked his final game for the team on Friday.
The 90-year-old transplanted New Yorker, a staple at Coyotes games for 20 seasons, retired after saying goodbyes and posing for pictures with players and other friends outside Gila River Arena.
"Hockey players are different from other sports people," Monaco said. "They always greet you, no matter what or how bad they feel that day. They could be having a tough day in their personal lives, but they always come in and take time to say 'Hi Lou' and that makes me feel good. Just those two words, they mean so much. I don't know how I'm going to handle not seeing these people."
Monaco said he plans to attend Coyotes games as a fan next season and beyond. He's emotionally invested in this team and is excited to watch it grow.
The feeling is mutual.
"Everybody around our team knows who Lou is," captain Shane Doan said. "It's impossible to drive past Lou without him having a positive effect on your day. He's just so upbeat. Seeing him before each game is something that I've enjoyed for a long, long time. He's always excited to see you, and he always asks about my wife and kids and my mom and dad. He's a genuinely good person and a pretty remarkable guy. I will miss him. We all will."
Monaco served in the Navy during World War II. After that, he was a milkman for 22 years and then he sold pharmaceutical supplies before moving to Arizona. He said he fell in love with the place after visiting family members who lived here.
Through the years he has developed bonds with many of the Coyotes players including Doan, Teppo Numminen, Jeremy Roenick, Darcy Hordichuk and Landon Wilson, to name just a few.
"I just get a kick out of talking to people," Monaco said. "You might not believe this, but when I was younger I was very bashful. My mother said I didn't talk until I was 10 years old."
Defenseman Connor Murphy admires Monaco for his gentle spirit and the way he looks you in the eye when he talks to you and addresses you by your name.
"He's one of those people that when you see him he automatically brings a smile to your face," Murphy said. "He's always happy and smiling and proud to be there for us every game. Talking with Lou, even if it's for as little as two or three minutes, is one of those things that just impacts your day and makes life better. "
Knowing that Monaco was retiring, the Coyotes recently invited him to be part of this year's official team photo.
In one version of the photo, Monaco is seated in the front row between owners Bob Gwin and Andrew Barroway.
"I was bubbling," Monaco said after the photo was taken. "I was saying to myself 'Could this happen to me?' Words don't describe it. It's a great feeling and I'll remember this for as long as I live. I'm the happiest person alive. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this. I'm going to miss them all, believe me. It's like family."