Saturday, 16 November 2019

#49 Takes The Face-Off

The excitement of signing your first NHL contract is always something special for any player. The Arizona Coyotes, in looking to keep the talent flow coming into their dressing room, went out and made a major signing today as they inked Leighton Accardo to a contract with head coach Rick Tocchet inserting her into the lineup tonight. Ok, we'll asterisk that last sentence because there are some details that are needed to fill in the blanks when it comes to young Leighton's signing today. Leighton was in uniform tonight, though, and she was on the ice at Gila River Arena with her Coyotes teammates.

For those that don't know who Leighton Accardo is, she's a young lady from Arizona who is currently battling stage IV cancer. She's plays baseball in the summer on an all-girls team called the Peaches in the East Valley Baseball league, and she plays hockey in the winter. Her favorite hockey team is, of course, the Arizona Coyotes. However, it was in the spring when Leighton was getting ready for another baseball season that the family had a major scare after the Accardo family took Leighton into the emergency room after she complained her stomach hurt. After a CT scan, the family got the most difficult news of their lives.

"They discovered multiple masses throughout her abdomen, in her liver and on her lungs," Carly Accardo, Leighton's mother, told Sebastian Emanuel of Cronkite News. "They sent us to the children's hospital and she was later diagnosed after the biopsies with germ cell tumors."

As Emanuel explains in his article, "[g]erm cell tumors are growths that form from reproductive cells and may be cancerous or noncancerous, according to Leighton has malignant germ cell tumors that are not located in her blood or bones, her family said."

The good news is that the cancer that Leighton was diagnosed with is the "type of cancer is often treatable with stage IV having an 82 percent cure rate, according to the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at John Hopkins." That some awesome news for Leighton and her family after being dealt with some of the hardest news they'd deal with in their lives.

So why am I writing about Leighton and girls' baseball teams on a hockey blog? Well, as part of the Hockey Fights Cancer month in NHL, Leighton was signed by the Coyotes for one day to become a member of the Coyotes complete with her own contract, her own jersey, and an opportunity to be on the ice with the Coyotes as they met the Flames tonight! Here is 8 year-old Leighton on her way to get ready for her debut as she walks through the corridors of Gila River Arena!
All of this pretty awesome for the Coyotes to do for Leighton, but it's what one player in particular did for Leighton once she got on the ice. As you may be aware, most of the people who participate in the Hockey Fights Cancer ceremonies are invited to drop the puck for a ceremonial face-off between the two NHL captains featured in those games. However, Leighton was involved a little more than your normal puck-drop.
This is an incredible moment for Leighton, an amazing gesture from Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and a simply awesome moment for the game. Knowing she played the game and having her out on the ice in full gear, Ekman-Larsson's gesture for her to take the face-off against Mark Giordano is entirely how professional players should be using their influence on the game, and OEL's recognition of Leighton's love for hockey has created a memory that she'll never forget. I love that Giordano played along with Ekman-Larsson's idea, and this is why I love this game: it's such a pure and genuine moment where a couple of players gave a young fan who is dealing with some adversity a memory that erases all that adversity.

Well done to the Arizona Coyotes for giving Leighton Accardo a day where she forgot some of the hospital visits she's had to endure, and infinite stick-taps to Oliver Ekman-Larsson for giving a young lady the biggest moment of her life. I don't know if Leighton Accardo will ever see this article, but Hockey Blog In Canada is a fan of yours, Leighton, as I wish you and your family complete remission in your battle against cancer with no recurrences of any kind in the future.

#49 in your programs, and definitely #1 in all our hearts today.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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