On April 19, Arizona Coyotes Captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and three of his teammates will arrive for their game against the Minnesota Wild with some very unique footwear: Custom sneakers designed by J. Pierce, a local artist who’s also designed items for other high-wattage stars, including LeBron James and Samuel L. Jackson. It’s all part of Hockey Fights Cancer Night, and the shoes will be auctioned to raise money for cancer research. A famously stylish guy off the ice (check out his patterned suits) Ekman-Larsson is a natural fit for the event, and we recently caught up with him virtually to talk about his style and why Hockey Fights Cancer Night is so important to him and the rest of the team.
“It’s a special night for all of us,” he tells Men’s Journal.
As an organization, the Coyotes have a track record of raising awareness around cancer research. As part of that effort, the team signed Leighton Accardo, an eight-year-old girl battling cancer, to a contract in 2019. Although she passed away in 2020, her strength and resilience continue to have a strong impact on the team.
“She’s such a big part of what we do,” says Ekman-Larsson. “I learned a lot just being around her.”
Cancer hits particularly close to home for the 29-year-old defenseman: His mother also passed away from the disease. Hockey Fights Cancer Night is a chance for him to honor her memory as well.
Although Ekman-Larsson couldn’t reveal exactly what his custom-designed sneakers will look like, the combination of a talented artist and a style-savvy player should make for some eye-catching kicks. When we talked about his style, though, Ekman-Larsson was surprisingly modest.
“I don’t really focus on it,” he says, “I’m pretty simple when it comes to clothes.”
One fashion accessory you won’t see him wearing outside the locker room: The coyote pelt that goes to the Coyotes player who makes the biggest impact on the ice. It’s been passed around for years, says Ekman-Larsson, and it reportedly carries quite the stench.
“It’s pretty bad,” he says.
In another virtual interview, we also spoke with Ekman-Larsson about his biggest tattoo (a tribute to his mom), the best-dressed player in the NHL, and more.
One thing we learned: Save your Swedish meatball jokes for someone else. If he hears one more, he might just burst into tears.
Check out both interviews in the videos above, and don’t miss Ekman-Larsson (and his shoes) at Hockey Fights Cancer Night on April 19.