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Young fan gets more than a signed stick at Saturday’s Coyotes game

PHOENIX – Nine-year-old Carmen Pafford removed his blindfold following a competition during intermission of the Arizona Coyotes’ Saturday game against the San Jose Sharks and found much more than what he was looking for.

The contest involved finding Coyotes mascot Howler blindfolded to win a signed stick from Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta.

After successfully locating Howler and winning the signed stick, Pafford removed his blindfold to find his dad, who just returned home from three combat tours to the Republic of Georgia and eight months in Afghanistan.

Carmen had not seen his father, U.S. Marine Major Tom Pafford, in nearly a year.

“It was hard because we had short (deployments) like weeks or days, but we never had ones that were years,” Carmen Pafford told FOX Sports Arizona’s Jody Jackson during the second intermission, adding they still communicated during that time.

Carmen Pafford said he had no idea that his dad had returned home, saying the two missed their Facetime call in the morning because his dad was at his grandparents’ house.

Replays during the interview showed the surprise and happiness on Carmen Pafford’s face after realizing his dad was back home.

“It was funny, when he turned around he kind of actually looked past me and he’s like ‘dad?’” Tom Pafford said.

Carmen added, “I didn’t recognize him at first because I haven’t seen him in a long time.”

Tom Pafford told Jackson he appreciated the Coyotes as the surprise was a lot to put together.

The Marine is hopeful he will be home for a while.

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