GLENDALE, Ariz. — Larry Fitzgerald and Shane Doan will probably always be linked by the fact that each has played his entire career for the same franchise: Fitzgerald for 13 seasons with the Cardinals; Doan for 21 with the Coyotes/Jets franchise (the last 20 in Arizona).
“Any time you’re linked with Larry it’s pretty special,” Doan said.
It was special to see the two together on the ice at Gila River Arena as Fitzgerald donned skates for the first time in his life to promote his bobblehead night on Saturday when the Coyotes host the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Although their stories are linked by loyalty, even Fitzgerald acknowledged that Doan’s brand of devotion has reached another level than his.
“He has stuck around a heck of a lot longer than I have,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s just a loyal person. This community should be very thankful for his loyalty, his dedication and I know he’s a great mentor to the guys on this team.”
When Cardinals president Michael Bidwill stepped in to make sure a Valley icon didn’t walk away in the twilight of his career, he gave Fitzgerald more money in the form a two-year deal with $22 million in guaranteed money than Fitzgerald likely could have earned anywhere else (Fitzgerald signed a one-year extension in training camp last fall).
That was a major factor in his return two seasons ago, and a significant influence in him announcing last week he was coming back for the final year of his contract, but so was the fact that the Cardinals have been a playoff caliber team each of Bruce Arians’ four seasons as coach, even if last season finished in a 7-8-1 disappointment.
“That’s one of the main reasons,” Fitzgerald said. “I just know the kind of talent we have offensively, defensively… We can compete with anybody.
“I’ve just got unfinished business. We had a great year the previous year and then came back and didn’t have the kind of year we wanted to have. We know that’s not the standard. We can’t play at that level. We have too much talent and ability. Everybody knows the windows in sports are very small and when you have a team that possesses the talent and ability to make a run, you want to keep the nucleus together.”
That is where Fitzgerald’s and Doan’s stories diverge dramatically. The Coyotes have not been to the playoffs the last four seasons, they will not go to the playoffs this season when Doan’s contract expires and they still don’t know where they’ll be playing long-term after ASU abruptly killed a potential arena. A Coyotes ownership group with limited Valley ties also made it clear last summer that it was willing to part ways with Doan if the price got too high.
Doan made waves recently when he admitted publicly that he might consider waiving his no-move clause to chase a Stanley Cup in what will likely be his final NHL season, but that still seems unlikely both because the “perfect opportunity” probably won’t materialize for Doan and because being a Coyotes lifer is a part of Doan’s very fabric and identity.
“I will always consider myself blessed to have had this opportunity,” he said. “It means a lot to me.”
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