Arizona’s Family

By Mark McClune –

The Arizona Coyotes are trying to build something on the ice and in the community.

The team’s stars were on hand on Tuesday to team up with KaBOOM! to help install a new playground at Larry C. Kennedy School in Phoenix.

“We didn’t have a lot of TV games and Xbox. This is what I did when I was a kid,” said Coyotes All-Star Oliver Ekman-Larrsson. “Playing around with my friends. It’s something I like to do, giving back to the community.”

The group did need a little coaching up. Luckily, they had Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet on hand to help.

“It builds community strength,” said the first year Coyotes coach about the playground. “Right after school, we’d go to the playground, whether we played hockey or swings.”

Tocchet looked over and saw his players Max Domi, Derek Stepan and Ekman-Larsson trying to install a new sign for the playground.

“Max has been holding that for a while,” said Tocchet. “OEL, I don’t know what he’s doing. Step doesn’t know whether to put the screw in upside down. They’ve been there for 15 minutes and still haven’t gotten that sign-up.”

Tocchet’s Coyotes have had a long season so far. Four East Coast road trips have left them weary and in last place in the Western Conference. The schedule shifts in their favor for the winter, with 21 of their next 39 at home.

“It was tough,” said Domi. “I’m not sure if it’s the worst schedule ever, but it’s definitely up there. But you never heard any guy complain the whole time. We’re building something special here. Sometimes you’ve got to learn how to get through the tough times and enjoy the good times.”

Domi, Ekman-Larrsson and Stepan started with sign installation on the playground and made their way to bigger jobs. Their work on the playground was the most exciting part of the holiday season for one young man.

“I’m almost certain that I’m going to have fun on it,” said Noah, a fourth-grader at Larry C. Kennedy School. “I would rather have this than my birthday or Christmas.”

KaBOOM! is a non-profit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, particularly those growing up in poverty in America.