While the Coyotes franchise epitomized volatility for years, Shane Doan was the one pillar of stability over more than two decades.
Doan announced his retirement Wednesday morning, less than three months after the NHL club decided not to offer the 40-year-old a contract for the 2017-18 season.
The Alberta native, who played his entire 21-season career with the Arizona Coyotes, is the franchise leader in games played, goals, assists, points, power-play goals and game-winning markers. He was drafted seventh overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 1995 with the club shuffling off to the desert one year later.
Instability has plague the franchise with ownership and relocation troubles lingering in the background. But the Coyotes could always count on Doan, who was among the longest-serving captains in NHL history after taking over from Teppo Numminen in 2003.
A two-time all star, Doan scored at least 20 goals in 13 seasons and topped 50 points 11 times with a career high of 78 points in the 2007-08 season. He won the King Clancy Memorial trophy for leadership on and off the ice in 2010 and the Mark Messier Leadership award in 2012.
Doan announced his decision to retire in an Arizona newspaper.
‘One of the hardest decisions’
He recalled the excitement of his first NHL game on Oct. 7, 1995 — he had two assists — and said he “probably” knew that April 8, 2017 would be his last NHL game.
“I felt an indescribable wave of emotion to have the support that I’ve had over the years from the fans throughout all of the uncertainty,” Doan wrote in the Arizona Republic. “You have always defended me and supported me. Playing in front of you has honestly been one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
Doan, who entered the league as a teenager, described retirement as “one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.”
Hailing from the tiny town of Halkirk, Doan ultimately grew up in sunny Arizona, building a family there and sticking with the Coyotes even as their viability to stay put was threatened. He signed a five-year deal with the club in 2007 and another four-year pact after that.
“I’ve had some interest from other teams over the years, but there’s always been too much pulling me back to Phoenix,” Doan wrote in a Players Tribune article in December 2015. “I believe in this organization and I have so much respect for the fans who have stuck with us all of this time.
“In Phoenix, there have been long stretches when it’s been bad — really bad,” he continued. “But the fans still showed up. We’d be surrounded by rumours that we were going to relocate, and I’d look up in the stands and see familiar faces wearing my jersey and pounding on the glass. Who wouldn’t skate through a brick wall for them?”
It’s still uncertain where the Coyotes will play long-term with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stating in May that the club could not succeed with the current arena in Glendale.
Coyotes bungled his exit
Doan got closest to winning a Stanley Cup in 2012 when the Coyotes lost the Western Conference final to the Los Angeles Kings.
Doan never won a major NHL award and probably falls short of Hall of Fame consideration, but he brought a consistently rugged brand to hockey in Arizona with…