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Shane Doan’s jersey retirement about more than just hockey

From left to right Shane Doan, left, wife Andrea Doan, children Carson Doan, Josh Doan, and Karys Doan, watch as the Arizona Coyotes retire Shane's jersey during a ceremony prior to an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Having one’s jersey retired is an honor reserved for only the greatest players in a team’s history. But the Arizona Coyotes put No. 19 in the rafters for both its greatest player and ambassador.

Shane Doan was described Sunday by his former teammates as, first and foremost, a great friend and person. Tyson Nash might’ve said it best, telling of the time Doan cared about Nash when his mother was battling a life-threatening illness.

“When I look up at that jersey, it won’t be the goals, assists and points. I will remember the stories, the dinners, the card games, the celebrations, the losses, the inside jokes, the wrestling matches, the smile,” Nash said. “The best person I ever got to call my friend, my teammate and my captain. I love you, buddy.”

Among those to speak were NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Coyotes president and CEO Ahron Cohen, Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson, former Coyote Daniel Briere, along with Nash and Doan.

“He is truly a captain of all times,” Bettman said. “He truly is a leader who is respected and admired. And as I got to know Shane over the years, I’ll tell you a couple things: 1) He is truly a great guy with incredible integrity, and 2) this franchise wouldn’t be here without him.”

After the ceremony, Doan was asked about the crowd that was attendance to see his number retired forever. He joked that he was surprised they were all there, because he would’ve been late if he were attending as a fan.

Then he acted in typical Doan character, exhibiting the humility that endeared him to his teammates: He said he had a hard time even walking out onto the ice because he didn’t feel comfortable with all the attention he was getting.

“I don’t even know how to express it. I’ve been trying to say thank you since they announced it and I’m still trying to say thank you for it,” he said. “It’s one of those things that your gratitude and your appreciation, you can’t express it in words. You can’t express it to people. My emotions are all over the map.

“It was amazing. It was absolutely amazing.”

Cohen remembered a time that he was in his first season with the organization, and Doan was leaving just ahead of him after a tough loss. About half an hour after Cohen left, he remembered he left something in the building. He turned around, returned to the arena, and when he got there, Doan was still signing autographs and conversing with fans.

“On behalf of the entire Arizona Coyotes organization and our great fans, thank you for everything you’ve done for our franchise and for Arizona,” Cohen said.

A video played with messages from current and former NHL players, as well as other familiar faces. Among those featured in the video were Kings forward Dustin Brown, country music artist Garth Brooks, former Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, former Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle and many more.

Then, it was Doan’s turn to talk.

“I have an old proverb that I absolutely love. And it says that if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” he said. “And the only reason that I’m here and the only reason I’m celebrated is because of everything that everyone sacrificed around me.”

After the speeches, a banner with “DOAN 19” was raised to the ceiling. Then, the former Coyotes captain was presented with a custom Coyotes No. 19 golf cart and a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

“I have been begging in the last year and a half for my wife to see if I could get a Harley,” he said with a smile.

After 1,540 games and seemingly a million meaningful interactions with fans, teammates, opponents, coaches and staff, he’s earned it.

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