Happy Meal

Arizona Olympian Glad To Give Back To Next Generation Of Female Hockey Players Through Her Small Frys Program

The minute the Olympic medal was placed around her neck, Lyndsey Fry knew what came next. 

As the only Arizona native to win an Olympic ice hockey medal, the 21-year-old from Mesa knew that her hockey journey had taken her farther than she ever dreamed possible. Now it was time to return to her roots and give back to the hockey community that gave so much to her. 

"It was like a movie scene where I looked up at my family and I just started having flashbacks of everyone that got me to that moment. Whether it be in Arizona, Colorado where I played high school hockey, college, or whatever, I just realized in that moment that this is my mission, this is my legacy. Because if not me then who?" said Fry, who was a member of the silver medal-winning squad at the Sochi Games.

Fry wanted to find a way to kickstart women's hockey in Arizona in a way that it never had before. Thanks to Matt Shott, the director of youth hockey development for the Arizona Coyotes, that dream is now a reality. 

Small Frys first took the ice as a smaller, one-time program designed to improve the women's hockey landscape in Arizona from the ground up. It's since grown into an amped-up, extended program due to a partnership between the Coyotes and the NHL's industry growth fund.

"The biggest thing is that Matt and I recognized there was a gap. There were all these girls spread out at all the different rinks and playing boys hockey. So, when they got to age 14 they'd either leave [the game] or play for the Lady Coyotes," Fry said."We realized there wasn't anything for them when they were younger and there wasn't anything  giving them hope that girls' hockey was strong at the younger age group. For those girls who are more timid, they didn't feel like they had a home. For us it was more that we wanted to show the state that girls' hockey is here and it's fun."

Small Frys is now the largest women's hockey development program the state of Arizona has seen, and is coached exclusively by an all-female staff.

The program has three strides that take the girls from learn-to-skate to playing in their local house leagues after graduation.  

It starts with a summer program that runs from April to August and focuses on individual skills like skating, shooting and stick handling. 

After the girls gain confidence in those skills, they move onto the second stride that deals more with team aspects of the game like passing, body contact and basic positioning.

The third stride features a structure similar to most leagues, with a Thursday night practice where skills are reviewed, followed by a game on Saturday. 

The program is designed to create a smooth transition for the girls to go out and eventually join a local house league.

"We're trying to prepare them to go out with confidence into their co-ed leagues," Fry said.

To date, 56 girls have completed all three stages and graduated from the program.

For Fry, organizing and running the weekly sessions has been hard work, but finding support for the program has been easy. Several local rinks, the Behind the Mask equipment store and the volunteer coaches have all pitched in to help. And so far it's received total buy-in from participants and their parents.

"This is the best possible program for a young girl to keep her energized and keep her really engaged and building confidence," said Kenny Brock, whose daughter Sarah has excelled in the program. 

"The team that Lyndsey's built is just phenomenal. Meeting her one time is all it took for me. There's no better person to be a role model for these young girls and what we've experience this season is life changing for them."

While running Small Frys this first season has been a team effort, Fry herself is no doubt what has made the biggest difference in the girls' minds. 

"This is my favorite skating program I've ever done," said 9-year-old Bella York. "Lyndsey is amazing and I love her a lot. She's the reason I did this program and want to do it again."

Fry is humble about the success of the program, insisting that it is the result of teamwork, but she does admit this inaugural season has changed her life. 

"To have my name on these jerseys is a huge honor," she said. "To have this kind of be my legacy? I'm very thankful for everything I've had and worked for and just happy that now I get to give it all back." 



Taylor Sedona Clark covers the NHL and NWHL for SB Nation.




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