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People of Our Pack, Chapter 3: JD's No. 1 Fan

by Jess Isner @ArizonaCoyotes

For Lauren Sutkowski, the memory of her first Coyotes game is still as sharp as ever, even though it was years ago now.

"I've been a Coyotes fan since I was little," she said. "My mom really got me into hockey and encouraged me to watch it with her as much as I could."

For her, the first game came against the New Jersey Devils in 2014.

"I was wearing my Phoenix Coyotes black third jersey and loving every minute of the game," she said. "It was my first time watching the Coyotes live instead of on my television screen."

These days, you can find Lauren, now 17 years old, a few rows behind the Coyotes bench for all 41 home games at Gila River Arena. But instead of her black third jersey, she's wearing her Jason Demers No. 55 Kachina sweater. 

"I've been following him since he was playing in San Jose," Lauren said. "I've just continually watched him play throughout the years, and when he came to the Coyotes, I was excited. I knew his sense of humor and his skills as a defenseman were going to be great additions to the team, and seeing him grow on the team with players like OEL and Antti Raanta has been such a privilege." 

She's counting down the days till he returns from a long-term lower body injury. 

"It definitely has not been the same since he's been gone," she said. "We miss our hype man!" 

Even in Demers' absence, though, there are plenty of players that make Lauren's weekly sojourns to Gila River Arena worthwhile. In fact, it was one such encounter with a former Yote that still resonates with Lauren, to this day, as the moment she truly became a part of the Coyotes faithful. 

"In 2016, on D-Backs Night, I got a puck from the Den at the last minute, and after warmups, I awkwardly held out my puck and a Sharpie near the Coyotes tunnel," she recalled. "I was so shy and nervous, but the next thing I knew, Louis Domingue walked through and grabbed my puck and Sharpie. He took it back in the tunnel and signed it for me, and the security guys were kind enough to toss it back to me once he was finished. It was one of my first-ever autographs from a Coyotes player, and I still have that puck in a special case in my room." 

For Lauren, it's these moments with the players, her heroes, that keep her coming back to games, year after year. For her, those moments are what make it so special to be a Coyotes fan - whether it was getting a surprise autograph from Domingue, or watching Shane Doan's final game live and in person, or being selected to take a #lifegOEL selfie with Oliver Ekman-Larsson and getting a second selfie with her absolute favorite. 

"While I was waiting during warmups on the bench, Jason recognized me and skated over," she said. "He asked me if I wanted to take a photo and I was frozen. The picture turned out a little blurry because I was shaking."

Those moments keep Lauren coming back to Section 121 week after week - those moments, and knowing that her team is just as dedicated to the fans and she is to them. 

"No matter what, the team has put its all into Arizona hockey," she said. "On and off the ice, their dedication to growing the game and providing for their fans has been unmatched. 

"I'm proud to be a Coyotes fan for life."

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