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Community, commemoration storyline for Coyotes Face-off Luncheon

Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka speaks to the media at an introductory press conference at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz. on July 13, 2017. (Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)

Community and commemoration were the defining themes at the recent Arizona Coyotes Foundation Face-off Luncheon.

Todd Walsh of Fox Sports Arizona began the afternoon by paying homage to Dave Strader, the former Coyotes broadcaster who passed away on Sunday at 62 after a yearlong battle with bile duct cancer.

“We lost a great friend, a tremendous broadcaster, and a pillar in the hockey community who is soon to be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame,” Walsh said. “He is a part of the Coyotes extended family. For four year we were all lucky enough to be entertained by one of the best play-by-play announcers.”

The event continued with speeches from front office personnel regarding the foundation, the team, and the meaning of community.

The Arizona Coyotes Foundation strives to enhance the quality of life throughout Arizona communities by supporting nonprofit organizations that promote programs for children and servicemen and servicewomen.

Tuesday’s event was the first of many fundraisers planned for the season, including a celebrity waiters gala in December and a celebrity golf tournament in February.

Last year the foundation contributed over $700,000 to Arizona nonprofits including $350,000 in grants to 23 different organizations. Its goal for this year is to give $1 million.

Ability360, which helps promote programs designed to empower people with disabilities, was just one of the many grantees impacted by the foundation.

Olivia Matos, executive director of the Arizona Coyotes Foundation, believes events like the luncheon play a huge role in impacting the community.

“We love having opportunities for our fans to interact with our players. We have a lot of fun with it,” Matos said. “It’s good for them to get up and close and personal and get to talk to the guys. So if we can make that a foundation event where we’re also raising money that we can give back to nonprofits. It’s kind of a win-win on both sides.”

Despite the foundation’s initiative to help Arizona communities, Matos said they plan on contributing, in some way, to Las Vegas after the city’s recent tragedy.

Matos has been speaking with the Las Vegas Golden Knights Foundation to see how the Coyotes foundation can help and show support.

The team hosts the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.

Coyotes general manager John Chayka took a moment before he gave Coyotes fans a season preview to thank service members for their work, especially in the wake of tragedy.

“I know we have a lot of active military in the room, people that protect us and look after us,” Chayka said. “Thank you for all you do. There are some scary things going on out there.”

Chayka praised the city of Las Vegas and the Golden Knights for their resilience.

“For us and the community aspect, bringing people together through sport is the best part,” Chayka said. “It’s important to us and a big part of what we’re trying to do here and for them to overcome what they’re going through is special.”

Chayka also said he spoke with Golden Knights general manager George McPhee about the current state of players, staff and front office personnel. He said fortunately, their families were not directly affected by the tragedy.

The NHL and Golden Knights have made a joint donation of $300,000 to support the victims of the mass shooting.

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