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Former Coyotes: Doan defined by genuineness, grace, competitive fire

PHOENIX — Keith Yandle was an 18-year-old kid, just two months removed from the 2005 NHL Draft, when he showed up in Arizona to take the ice for informal summer skates with his new Coyotes teammates at the Ice Den.

That was the first time he met Shane Doan.

“All the guys were in one locker room and I walked through and saw him with his shirt off, getting dressed to go on the ice,” Yandle said. “I looked at his chest and then I looked at mine, this 18-year-old kid right out of high school who had never worked out and I thought, ‘this is what it means to play in the NHL.”

Over the next nine seasons, Doan taught Yandle a whole lot more.

“Every guy I have ever played with asks me what kind of guy he is and I tell them ‘the best,'” said Yandle, now with the Florida Panthers. “My whole time there, I kept thinking that I want to be like Shane Doan. He leaves an impression on everyone he meets and he left an impression all over the league.”

Doan announced his retirement on Wednesday, two months after the Coyotes told him they would not offer him another contract after 21 seasons with the franchise. Doan considered a handful of offers from other teams, but a diminished role with another team and his unwillingness to move his family led him to decide what most close to him had been expecting all summer.

“As a friend and a fan, I was hoping to see him play at least one more year but I’m also excited for him and his family to attack a new chapter in his life,” former Coyote Daniel Briere said. “I’m sure his family will be happy to have him home more often and there for all the events he’s been missing for a lot of years because of hockey.”

Briere and Doan became close friends after the two were demoted to Springfield of the AHL in the 1997-98 season (Briere after just five NHL games; Doan after 2½ NHL seasons).

“I got play with him for half a year there and it was a blessing in disguise,” Briere said. “He never complained about being sent down and I learned a lot from the way he handled that. He did what he had to do. He dominated, he kept working, he was a great teammate and it made him a better player later on.

“I don’t think you can find a better example of what a leader should be in showing everyone how to be a pro, how to carry themselves on and off the ice and how to treat people around them.”

Throughout his career, Doan became known as the guy who always had time to talk to fans and strangers, and his genuine, fully-present approach allowed him to cross barriers some players never do.

“He had friends who were trainers like Stan Wilson, he had friends who were coaches, he had friends in management and he had friends in ownership,” former coach Dave Tippett said.

Those same qualities, Tippett said, are what helped Doan cement his legacy.

“There have been very few people in the history of the game that have made such an impact on an organization and a city,” Tippett said. “He’s a phenomenal person and the platform he put himself on by being a good player allowed him to impact lots of people.”

Tippett coached Doan at the World Championships before he arrived as the Coyotes’ coach in 2009, but he knew Doan’s voice and support would be critical to implementing a new system and approach in a franchise whose Valley future was uncertain.

“He was all on board with what we’re trying to do and he always led the way,” said Tippett, remembering a 2013 game in Los Angeles with the Coyotes mired in a three-game losing streak. “He had both goals and he played one of the best games I’ve ever seen a guy play. After the game I called him Bobby Boucher, The Water Boy. He was mean and he scored and with all those goofy stats I was keeping, he was off the board on all of them.”

Former Coyotes Keith Tkachuk said he had a natural kinship with Doan when Doan arrived in Winnipeg as a rookie in 1995.

“We were similar players, power forwards who liked to play around the net,” Tkachuk said. “But he was so easy to like. He was just this kid, wet behind the ears, with that big farmer frame and a big smile. He was one of those great character people and guys instantly had a liking for him.”

Doan retires as the franchise record holder for games played (1,540), shots (3,945), goals (402), assists (570), points (972), power-play goals (128) and game-winning goals (69). That is part of the image his former teammates, coaches and managers will keep of him, but his influence runs far deeper.

“To be as good and genuine a person as he is off the ice while putting everything into being competitive on the ice — we should all aspire to be like Shane Doan,” Calgary general manager and former Coyotes assistant GM Brad Treliving said. “That would be the biggest compliment I could pay Shane. If we could all find that level of graciousness, genuineness and competitiveness, we’d all be a little better off.”

Ever the dry comedian, Yandle would like to thank Doan for one more thing.

“He saved me a lot of money because he paid for a lot of dinners,” Yandle said.

Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter

RESPECT

A number of former Coyotes teammates reached out to Doan on Twitter following the announcement.

 

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