Sports offer us normal folk the chance to witness a great athlete perform extraordinary feats and achieve records we can only dream of in driveway games as children. Over the years, we’ve seen teams win back-to-back championships, swimmers destroy world records and a man win a bicycle race seven times in a row.
Saturday night wasn’t one for the record books, but it’s one of the best moments in sports I’ve witnessed.
At 19:59:99 of the third period, Phoenix Coyotes wing Shane Doan scored a goal. It was a buzzer beater, but in a 5-1 win over the New York Islanders, likely would have been the icing on the cake. But not this goal.
With that buzzer beater of a slapshot, Doan scored his first career NHL hat trick.
It took him 1161 games — 20 years after he was drafted by the original Winnipeg Jets. Thousands upon thousands of minutes of professional hockey. He’d come close before, scoring two goals in a game on 38 occasions and would have held the record for the most two-goal games in NHL history without a hat trick, but managed to beat the clock at, literally, the last second.
The goal was reviewed. In the media center, we didn’t think it was going to count. It would be fitting for Doan, who has come so close so many times, to miss out yet again. But the replay showed the puck crossed the line during regulation. It counted. Doan had finally done it.
As he walked into the locker room, Doan was cheered by his teammates. He had hats — three full garbage bags — that were thrown on the ice by fans dumped on him by Keith Yandle and Paul Bissonnette. Other Coyotes were ribbing him about scoring hat tricks when they were six. And, the whole time, that big Shane Doan smile never left his face.
“I wasn’t going to be surprised if it didn’t count,” said Doan. “I was expecting it, but it’s one of those things, you know, it was nice to get.”
Doan laughed as he said it was “embarrassing” how many chances his team worked to give him and that a lot of the guys, especially Radim Vrbata, refused to play and kept putting him back on the ice.