NHL.com’s Q&A feature called “Five Questions With…” runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features Lyndsey Fry, Arizona Coyotes ambassador/director of external engagement for youth and women’s hockey, who will be in-line skating 96 miles across the Phoenix metropolitan area in January to raise funds for the newly created Leighton Accardo Scholarship Fund. Accardo died at age 9 on Nov. 24 of germ cell cancer.
Lyndsey Fry originally planned to do an in-line skating fundraiser with Leighton Accardo, pushing the 9-year-old girl in a stroller while raising money for a children’s hospital in her honor.
But when Accardo died on Nov. 24, two years after she was diagnosed with germ cell cancer, Fry decided to do the 96-mile skate, called Skatin’ for Leighton, on her own. Donations are already being taken for the event, which will raise money for the Leighton Accardo Scholarship Fund to provide financial assistance to girls interested in playing hockey in Arizona, and to continue the memory of Accardo in the community.
“We originally said we’d raise $25,000, then thought, we’re going bigger,” Fry said. “We’re going $49,000, because her number was 49 (with the Arizona Kachinas girls hockey team). That’s how it all came together. Her parents, as horrible as the situation is, I know they’re very excited. We’re keeping her memory alive in a way that’s going to allow more girls to play hockey, which is cool.”
Fry will complete the skate in one day, beginning at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and finishing at Gila River Arena. She will visit all seven of the area’s hockey rinks along the route. Fry said the skate, which is 96 miles to commemorate the Coyotes’ inaugural season (1996-97), will take place in late January at a date to be determined.
Here are Five Questions with… Lyndsey Fry:
When did talk about doing some sort of fundraiser begin?
“It’s been about two months that we’ve been talking about this. The idea for the scholarship fund is really only about a week and a half old. We’re still working through logistics of exactly how that money’s going to be used and distributed. We’ve already talked about doing events, turning Skatin’ for Leighton into an annual event. It was hard this year with COVID; I knew it had to be something big, but also knew we couldn’t get a huge group of people involved. That’s why I structured the first one this way, so people can be spread out across a lot of places. I’ve been getting so many messages from kids, adults, Coyotes coach (Rick) Tocchet. There are a lot of people who want to skate with me, which I love. I’m hopeful this can be an annual event. Maybe next year 500 people can donate, skate, whether it’s on a track or we shut down a few streets. It’s been cool to see how everyone’s rallied around this.”
How big was Leighton’s impact on you and the Coyotes?
“I met Leighton when she was 4 years old. Here was this adorable blonde little firecracker with so much life, so much energy. I got closer to her as a person after she got sick. In our world, especially in the hockey development department with the Coyotes, if any kid in our community gets sick, we as a team and our youth hockey department want to be there to support them. We’ve seen these kids grow up around us.
“I got to know her as a person after she got sick and I’ll be forever thankful for that. You see someone’s character when they’re going through adversity. I’ve never met a kid like Leighton. She got dealt the worst hand possible and she had the most positive attitude, the most fight. She never wanted to be treated differently. She really showed people that, even if you’re having a hard time, and everyone’s having a hard time this year, the biggest thing I take away from her is, we can do hard things and we can do them with a smile on our face. And that was Leighton.”
How long have you been in-line skating to prepare for this?
“I’ve been training for about two months. The reality right now is, everybody’s just so busy trying to do their regular jobs and balance COVID on top of it. For the work I do in youth hockey, it’s been an adventure, it’s been really busy. Some days I can’t get training in, it is what it is. These next two months are important. I could probably do [the 96-mile skate] tomorrow, it’s just about how badly I want it to hurt or not hurt.
“I’ve been far more motivated since Leighton passed. Just the entire meaning of this has changed. Personally, to see so many people supporting the idea and the event and the scholarship. We’ve already raised $10,000, which is incredible. That’s something that’s pushed me to a different level. I take that into my training, especially on days I don’t want to.”
What’s a typical training day like?
“It depends. As you can imagine, there’s no 100-mile skate training plan out there online. I did an Ironman (triathlon) in 2017, so I had a bit of a familiarity with some of those ultra-endurance races, the process of training for them. So I found an ultra-running training plan online for a 100-mile running race, and I’ve been doing that, building miles on that. I do strength training three times a week, then I’m skating 10 miles or less on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and then going on a long skate on Friday or Saturday, up to 40 miles a day. Then I do about half of that long distance on Sundays. I’m fortunate that it’s something related to work. I’m supported by the Coyotes, who understand the meaning for Leighton, her family, for our organization and our team.”
The Coyotes Community Center was unveiled in October and is the official home for girls’ hockey in the area. How gratifying was that, and how nice was it to have Accardo to be a part of the opening?
“She couldn’t be there in person, she was getting treatment. But the hospital sent this robot she could control from her bed and she helped us open building.
“The girls here have never had a building to call their own, they’ve never had a place to hang their banners. … They’ve just never really gotten first crack at any of the ice, and it’s very difficult to scale a program if you don’t have your own facility. So we’re very fortunate for that.”