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Special Shoes Get to the Soul of the Matter

Arizona artist, Coyotes collaborate on designs commemorating 'Hockey Fights Cancer'

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

Four Coyotes will wear custom-designed shoes to the arena Monday to commemorate "Hockey Fights Cancer Night."

The Coyotes play the Minnesota Wild, 6 p.m., at Gila River Arena.

The four players - Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jakob Chychrun, Clayton Keller and Jordan Oesterle - collaborated with local artist J. Pierce, renown for his colorful and urban themes.

Pierce tailored each shoe -- adidas Nizza RF High style -- with oil paint pens to commemorate the players' personal stories of how cancer has touched their lives. The shoes will be auctioned off to support the Arizona Coyotes Foundation. The auction is open and runs until 12:00 p.m. Tuesday.

Ekman-Larsson's shoes are dedicated to his mother, Annika, who battled cancer for 10 years and passed away in 2017. His design incorporates a horseshoe to symbolize his mother's love for horses. It also includes hearts with 'Mom' inscribed in between.

Additionally, Ekman-Larsson's shoes include gold ribbons, the symbol for childhood cancer, to pay tribute to Leighton Accardo, honorary Coyotes teammate and Hockey Fights Cancer ambassador who passed away from Stage Four cancer in November at age nine.

Chychrun's shoes pay homage to a family friend, Lori Alf, who recently beat multiple myeloma, a rare type of cancer. Lori now is cancer free. Lori's name is depicted on Chychrun's shoes, along with a burgundy ribbon to symbolize myeloma cancer.

Keller's shoes commemorate his grandfather, Bill, who died of cancer. "Grandpa Bill" is written on the side, alongside a hockey puck and stick. Keller made specific note of breast cancer awareness on the inside of his shoes with the phrase "Never Give Up."

Oesterle's shoes also include pink, a ribbon, for his sister, who was diagnosed with the disease in August. Also pictured on the inside of his shoes is a heart and a hockey puck.

Each player's shoe also includes their uniform number.

As for the artwork, Pierce said, "My style of art, which I've incorporated into the shoes, is colorful, wild and happy patterns. The style is very positive and vibrant. I wanted to incorporate the players' themes, but not in a sad manner. I feel like it's a way to kind of bring happiness and light to a negative."

The Coyotes were introduced to Pierce's artwork through Jonah Rodriguez, Coyotes Coordinator of Grassroots Hispanic Marketing in the team's Hockey Development department. He is a customer of the "The Manner Barbershop," in Old Town Scottsdale, which features many of Pierce's paintings.

Pierce is working with the Arizona Coyotes Foundation on future projects including artistic twists on the Coyotes' Kachina, Primary, and 25th Anniversary logos.

Pierce, who designed the players' shoes free of charge, is not just a colorful artist, but also an interesting story.

Once in foster care and later homeless, he has worked with movie star Samuel L. Jackson, whom he considers a mentor. He currently is working with late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel. He recently shipped a 5'x6' painting to famed hip-hop artist Rick Ross.

"I've been on my own since I was 16," Pierce said. "I went through foster care, was basically homeless and just started penciling and creating artwork on my own. That led to me painting canvases, painting custom shoes, then it led to me painting at live trade shows.

"I originally started painting on clothes, shirts and shoes and stuff when I was going to school. From there, I was just painting on random things and going to trade shows."

Pierce works out of his home in Gilbert and now sells artwork globally.

His official website is You can follow him on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Lead Photo Credit: Kelsey Grant - Arizona Coyotes // Second Photo Credit: J. Pierce // Third Photo Credit - Kelsey Grant - Arizona Coyotes // Fourth Photo Credit: J. Pierce // Fifth Photo Credit: Kelsey Grant - Arizona Coyotes // Sixth and Seventh Photo Credit [Art Collages]: J. Pierce // Footer Photo Credit: Kelsey Grant - Arizona Coyotes

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