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Shane Doan will forever be Arizona’s captain

It was a little past 10 p.m. Tuesday when my cell phone rang. Usually, I have it turned off at that time and on the charger, but last night I had a sense that I was getting a very important phone call from a very dear friend.

I had spoken with Shane Doan earlier in the day after he had arrived back in Phoenix from Kamloops, British Columbia, where he had been at training camp for his 15-year-old son Josh. Before that, he was in California dropping his 18-year-old daughter Gracie off at college for the first time, where he balled his eyes out.

I had known for about a month that “The Captain” Shane Doan was retiring. We go way back — 20 years. We started here at the same time.

RELATED: Shane Doan retires after 21-year career with Coyotes

We have a mutual respect for each other that in many ways has granted me inside access that no one else has had to one of the greatest sports icons the Valley has ever seen, not to mention one of the greatest men I have ever known.

Doan had called me to tell me the Coyotes were not going to offer him a contract for this coming season back in June, a story we broke nationally and one that upset many a Coyote fan. At that time, he had a desire to keep playing and, truth be told, he had the opportunity to continue his career with another organization if he wanted to.

We talked on a regular basis since that time, and I can tell you that Edmonton, Calgary, Nashville, Dallas and the New York Rangers had all shown interest. He had been offered a contract from one of those teams to continue to play.

But he was torn. He went back and forth on a daily basis for a few weeks, but it was in late July that he called me to tell me that it was over, that he was going to retire. At that time, it was all about the classiest athlete I have ever known — along with Luis Gonzalez — being able to go out the way he wanted to.

It wasn’t about rushing to break a story and being first, it was about honoring his wishes. Doan wasn’t sure how he wanted to announce his retirement. But with the help of his amazing wife, Andrea, they came to the decision to thank the fans in a letter from him.

I would have expected nothing less than The Captain going out by thanking the fans. It’s him. It’s who he is. He loved the fans and he respected them and he didn’t want to thank any individual in calling it a career — he just wanted to thank the fans.

He called me to tell me that he had wrote the letter, and it was being published in the paper Wednesday. We talked for quite some time about the decision. He told me he had no regrets. He had prayed for God to take away his desire to play because since he was 6 years old, he had always had a team. He said he wanted to play last season and had no regrets about playing. He also wanted to play this season, but he is at peace with his decision.

Plain and simple he told me he is not where he needed to be to keep playing.

There were three factors in Doan deciding to retire.

1) He didn’t want to move his family.

2) He did not want to take the chance of being a fourth line player on another team, a possible health scratch on some nights. He said that wouldn’t look good.

3) There was always something special about spending his entire career with one organization.

RELATED: 19 memorable moments in Shane Doan’s Coyotes career

Doan is excited to be home with the family and is looking forward to the next chapter in his life. There was nothing left for him to do as a player in the NHL. He has some amazing opportunities in hockey available if he chooses to go that direction, which I hope he does.

For now he will lay low outside of an exclusive interview with the Burns and Gambo show today at 3 p.m. at Sanderson Ford in Glendale.

This day comes for every athlete. Father time is undefeated. And most of the time we don’t give it a second thought.

Few athletes touch us in a way that Doan touched the Valley. We got to know him and his family. In some ways he wasn’t just the Coyotes’ Captain; he was the Valley’s Captain.

Honor, respect, loyalty, class, character, community, leader and family: all words that will forever describe Doan.

I am sad that I will never again get to see him lace up the skates and play the game he loves again. But I am so happy that we had him for 20 years. So happy that I got to know him and call him my friend. So happy that he is staying in Arizona and in this community he calls home — a community he has given so much to on and off the ice.

Doan is that one in a million. He is that one athlete that we will never forget. That one athlete that will stand the test of time.

He is ours, Arizona. Active or retired, it makes no difference. Shane Doan will forever be The Captain.

Thank you Shane. Thank you for everything. I can honestly say I love you, my family loves you. And I can’t wait to see what’s in store for you next.

Editor’s Note: Shane Doan will speak about his decision at 3 p.m. Wednesday when he joins  98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station for the Burns and Gambo show. That interview can also be heard online or the 98.7 FM app.

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