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by Don Schwartz / Arizona Coyotes
It’s more than 1,500 miles from Abbotsford, British Columbia, to Arena, but the journey was much longer for 11-year-old Coyotes fan Miranda Klassen.

As Miranda and her family watched the Coyotes win their season opener on Saturday night from the stands – on the heels of a week-long hockey-themed trip to the Southwest – it was hard not to recall the circumstances surrounding the previous Coyotes game she attended.

It was last season when Miranda’s father Randy Klassen – an enthusiastic Coyotes fan dating to the franchise’s days in Winnipeg – bought tickets for his family to see the Coyotes battle the Canucks in nearby Vancouver. Hours after the purchase, Miranda was being rushed to a hospital as her cold-like symptoms had been diagnosed as Acute Myloid Leukemia, a cancer of the blood affecting white blood cell development.

Throughout her treatments, Miranda kept her spirits high with her faith, family, friends and by following her hockey team. Administrators at the hospital contacted the Coyotes’ Community Relations Department and the wheels were set in motion for Miranda to meet her favorite players - Shane Doan and Ed Jovanovski - as well as Head Coach Wayne Gretzky in Vancouver.

As her condition improved, what had been arranged as a hospital visit became a chance for Miranda to meet the team prior to the game her family planned on attending before the diagnosis. Thanks to the generosity of the Canucks, Miranda and her family were able to watch the game – a 4-3 Phoenix victory – from a private suite, as her condition required that she be cautious in public settings.

“It’s been incredible how open and personable everybody with the Coyotes has been beginning with that initial contact,” said Randy, who credits that night with helping his daughter cope with her chemotherapy. “Of course the Coyotes are our favorite team, but everyone in the organization has been so personable, it makes you want to cheer for the guys and follow the team even more.”

Though there have been a few hospital visits in the passing time, Miranda’s health improved to the point where the Klassens took their recent trip to California and Arizona. In addition to attending the first game against Columbus, their vacation also included a visit to the Magic Kingdom, tickets to the Coyotes preseason game in Anaheim and a week’s worth of watching practice at the Alltel Ice Den in Scottsdale.

“It’s very cool to see Ed and Shane again,” Miranda said. “The Coyotes are my favorite team and I also count Grant Fuhr and Wayne Gretzky as two of my favorite hockey players. It’s a lot of fun to see them all out there on the ice and to have them be so friendly and happy to see me is very cool.”

Though filled with plenty of fun, their family vacation also marks a bittersweet milestone for Miranda’s parents as it’s been about year since the initial phone call that instantly altered their lives.

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