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People of Our Pack, Chapter 2: CAPTAIN #23

by Jess Isner @ArizonaCoyotes

For years, Bob Castillo tried to get his wife Erica to join him for a Coyotes game. 

"She was reluctant," Bob said with a laugh. "But once she did go with me, that was it. She knew." 

You could say that Erica is now a diehard fan. 

"The closer we get to retirement," Erica said, "we tell our financial advisor, 'There are two things that matter: Our season tickets and our RV.'"

These days, Bob and Erica are a Gila River Arena mainstay, sitting a few rows back from the glass for all 41 home games. In fact, you might catch a glimpse of them - Erica, in particular - when the Coyotes score. 

There you'll find her, in the background behind the players' celebratory huddle, arms raised in jubilation, hoisting her trademark sign honoring Oliver Ekman-Larsson. 

CAPTAIN #23 

"To me, he's the best defenseman in the league," Bob said. "So it kind of rubbed off me onto [Erica], especially when [Shane] Doan left." 

During the summer of 2017, both Erica and Bob expected their favorite player to be named the successor to Doan and and the fourth captain in Coyotes history. 

"Then, for that whole season, nothing happened," Bob said. "They didn't make anybody captain, and Coach kept saying, 'We're going to wait, we're going to wait, we're going to wait' … It was driving us crazy." 

So, perhaps in an attempt to nudge the Coyotes brass, Erica began bringing her sign to every game and hoisting it high - during goal celebrations, during timeouts, during stoppages when Ekman-Larsson happened to skate by her section.  

"It was just two blank pieces of printer paper and clear tape used to laminate it - my special sign," Erica said. "It went to every game that season, and every game to this day." 

On July 1, 2018, when the Coyotes announced Ekman-Larsson had signed an eight-year extension to remain in Arizona, Bob and Erica got excited. Then, on Sept. 13, they finally got the news they'd been anticipating for more than a year. 

"The Coyotes believed in him as a rookie, and now it's our time to believe in him as our captain," Erica said. "It was not rocket science who our next pack leader should be." 

When the 2018-19 season opened in October, there were Bob and Erica, sitting just a few rows back from the glass, Erica sporting her No. 23 jersey with a brand-new C adorning the lapel. 

And with her, of course - held high and proud - was the sign that had become prophetic. 

CAPTAIN #23. 

"I'm a forever fan of this sport called hockey," Erica said. "I love this team and our captain. They make me so happy." 

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