Shane Doan’s endurance should be reflected in resilience of Coyotes
The city of Phoenix missed two giant opportunities when pledging $150 million to renovate a basketball arena for the Suns:
1. They should’ve demanded a statue of Jerry Colangelo be placed outside the refurbished arena, with his likeness christening the grand re-opening. It’s a civic embarrassment that neither team founded by the Arizona icon can find the heart or gratitude to honor him. Their pettiness lessens us all.
2. City leaders should’ve seriously explored the virtues of housing the Coyotes as a co-tenant at Talking Stick Resort Arena, thereby securing the future of our NHL team.
The latter is a complex issue. The Coyotes have two playoff series victories in 22 years, both occurring in the 2012 postseason. They’ve filed for bankruptcy and teetered on the brink of irrelevance.
Over the past decade, they’ve done less to deserve public funding than our hapless NBA team.
But their presence stamps our region as a Major League sports market, a status we don’t always deserve or appreciate. If the Coyotes could ever become a perennial contender, Valley would fall in love with the juxtaposition of icy playoff hockey and searing summer temperatures. And finally, there’s the matter of Shane Doan.
The former captain will have his jersey retired on Sunday. The ceremony will hit home, transcending our daily strife and defeats.
What would his retired jersey look like in a new arena, in a different state? Would it even hang?
In essence, losing the Coyotes would mean losing the touchstone of Doan, a Valley athlete celebrated for his loyalty and more. He helped spark the grassroots hockey renaissance in Arizona, a role model who belongs at the same head table as Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Pat Tillman.
“That’s huge for me,” Doan said on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station Tuesday. “That’s something … I recognize that if the team leaves, my career pretty much goes with it. And in a way, it was always in the back of my head, and it was something that I struggled with.
“There were rumors of the team leaving throughout my career, so there was always that thought (of being forgotten). The guys that played for the California Golden Seals or the Colorado Rockies before them in the NHL … you don’t really know who those guys were.”
Doan says he’s confident in the future, and that’s not surprising. During his illustrious playing career, Doan made a long-term investment in monogamy, faithfully serving one franchise through good times and bad, through better and mostly worse. He could’ve cashed out and played for a Stanley Cup contender. But what made him special was his immersion and connectivity with Arizona.
That would’ve been severed if Doan had left for greener pastures. And the same applies if the Coyotes can’t secure a new home in Arizona.
Doan never won a Stanley Cup. He had one postseason run with the Coyotes and a playoff series against the Red Wings that symbolized his torment, a controversy that would’ve lived in infamy in most major NHL markets.
Doan suffered an upper body injury in Game 3 of that series, the first shoulder injury of his career. He missed Games 4 and 5. He believed he could play in Game 6, but former head coach Dave Tippett wasn’t convinced. He said Doan would have to get through a full-contact practice without a shoulder injection before returning to the ice.
Somehow, the Coyotes won Game 6 on the road. The stage was set for a dramatic comeback, and Doan believed he had Tippett’s inherent support for a return in the decisive seventh game.
“The practice before Game 7, I went out without getting injected, without getting any freezing, without taking anything,” Doan said. “Me and Noki (Petteri Nokelainen) went at it really hard in practice. I told him, ‘You have to run me, you have to be as physical as you can. If you hurt me, it’s fine. Then I can’t play. But if you don’t hurt me, then I get to play. So come at me as hard as you can.’“
Doan aced that practice, believing he had solidified his spot in the lineup. When he left the ice, Tippett told him otherwise. He said he didn’t want Doan to risk further injury. He said the Coyotes would win Game 7 without him, and the team captain could triumphantly return for a second-round series against San Jose.
Of course, that never happened. The Coyotes were cannon fodder without Doan, losing by five goals to the Red Wings in Game 7. Tippett claimed he couldn’t risk a lineup spot to an injured player with limited capabilities, especially after a gritty team effort in Detroit.
“I was adamant that I could play,” Doan said. “I was fairly emotional and upset about it. He talked about Billy Guerin when he was in Dallas, where he let Billy play and it hurt Billy and that wasn’t good. He said, ‘I don’t want to do that to you.’ He said the worst thing in the world would be for you to finally get out of the first round and not be able to play in the second.
“I left and went for a trail ride. I got on my horse and rode for two-and-a-half, three hours by myself. I might’ve cried a little bit. Then I came back and sat and watched the game, and maybe cried some more.”
The story is full of regret, representing the martyr-like tone of Doan’s career in Arizona. It’s a reminder that his greatest triumph must come after his Cup-less career, when the endurance of his spirit should be reflected in the resilience of his NHL franchise.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.