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Doan inspired growth of Arizona hockey community

Although Coyotes forward Shane Doan officially announced his retirement, his legacy will live on. Many young players in the Valley have said they are playing hockey become of him. (Photo courtesy NHL)

PHOENIX — After Coyotes forward Shane Doan announced his retirement in a letter to the team and his fans, members of the Arizona hockey community reflected on the impact he had on the sport locally.

The Coyotes’ all-time leader in goals (402), assists (570) and games played (1,540) made a lasting impact on hockey in the desert.

After Winnipeg drafted him in 1996, and then relocated the team to the Valley, Doan played 21 years with the same organization and inspired a whole generation of young Arizonans to play the sport.

One example is Auston Matthews, who finished his rookie season with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017 after growing up in the Valley.

Greg Powers, Arizona State men’s hockey coach, said that many of the local players “grew up idolizing” Doan and that his team greatly enjoyed watching Matthews coming back home to play against the veteran.

“You could just see the level of respect that he had for him,” Powers said about Matthews.

Responding to a tweet from the NHL announcing Doan’s retirement, Matthews wrote “My childhood idol growing up. Amazing player and an even better person. Congrats on an unbelievable career Doaner!”

Matthews is one of many Arizona natives inspired to lace up skates and pick up a stick because of Doan. The 2016-17 Arizona hockey season saw a 60 percent increase in youth hockey registration since the 2013-14 season, according to a report by USA Hockey.

Bruce Urban is the general manager of AZ Ice’s Gilbert facility, which hosts a variety of the increasing youth participants in hockey competitions. He said the few times that Doan has come to his rink to talk to kids, the importance of having such a figure in the community for the sport was clear

“He’s been in the facility, and just like a pied piper, kids run and flock to him,” Urban said. “They know the Shane Doan name, and being the star that he is, I’m sure there have been plenty of kids interested in playing because of him.”

Doan established a tradition in a hockey market that had little before, similar to what the ASU team is trying to do. Powers said the dedication Doan had to the Valley was an example of how to properly establish a hockey culture in a non-traditional market.

“At ASU it’s ‘Be the tradition,’ and that’s what we tell every single one of our kids when they come in,” he said. “Shane Doan did that on the highest level.”

With nothing but positives to say about his experience as a Coyotes player, Doan praised the organization in his letter to the team.

“I also want to thank the Coyotes, who provided me the opportunity to stay in the Valley for 21 years. That’s one of the most meaningful accomplishments of my career, and I’ll forever cherish the friendships I’ve made along the way,” he wrote.

The Coyotes issued the following statement regarding Doan’s retirement announcement, thanking him for his time with the organization:

“On behalf of the entire Arizona Coyotes organization, our fans and our corporate partners, we would like to thank Shane for everything that he’s done for our franchise over the past 21 years. Shane had an incredible career on the ice and we are very proud of everything that he accomplished in a Coyotes uniform. He will be remembered as one of the greatest captains in NHL history. Off the ice, Shane was a great ambassador for growing the game of hockey in Arizona and his contributions to the community are immeasurable. Shane will be a Coyote for life. Thank you Captain!”

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