Leighton Accardo, the Arizona Coyotes fan who captured the hearts of pro players and fans across Phoenix, passed away Tuesday after a courageous battle with cancer.
Her mom, Carly, announced the 9-year-old's passing on Instagram writing, "Thank you Leighton for showing us true grit and tenacity, for being a warrior and for honoring us with your love for the last nine years."
Accardo was diagnosed with germ cell cancer in May 2018 after complaining of stomach pains. Since then, she underwent countless surgeries and nearly two dozen rounds of chemotherapy.
A lover of sports and avid hockey player, Accardo captured the hearts of the Arizona Coyotes, who signed her to a contract for Hockey Fights Cancer in November 2019.
You showed us how to fight.
You touched our hearts.
You changed our lives.
We’ll never forget you, Leighton. pic.twitter.com/NYq8iGkRfq
— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) November 24, 2020
The then 8-year-old had the opportunity to spend gameday with the team at Gila River Arena where she warmed up with the team, visited with players in the locker room and participated in the ceremonial puck drop. Instead of her dropping the puck, as is tradition, Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson insisted Accardo be the one to take the face-off, while he dropped the puck instead. Arizona went on to defeat the Calgary Flames and the Coyotes named Accardo the team's "first star," earning her a skate around the ice to the cheers of thousands of fans.
Even after the game, Accardo and her family were staples at Gila River Arena and Yotes' practices and games.
Accardo is survived by her parents Jeremy and Carly and her three siblings LeeAnne, Larson and Locke.