Anybody who has spent time around Shane Doan has a few stories or memorable moments that make them smile. Here is my favorite personal memory.
It was the morning of March 12, 2014. The Arizona Coyotes were at TD Garden for a practice before their game against the Boston Bruins the following day. My best man and longtime friend, Rob Gustavson, lives outside Boston. His son, Henry, is my godson. He’s also a pretty good hockey player.
The Coyotes were kind enough to invite all three of us into the locker room after practice. Then-coach Dave Tippett chatted with us for a few minutes, Boston area-native Keith Yandle shook Henry’s hand, and then it was time for Henry to meet Doan.
Despite everything I knew about Doan — his eagerness to engage strangers and his ability to maintain lengthy conversations, including one after a practice in Glendale that prompted Executive Vice President of Communications and Broadcasting Rich Nairn to tell us to “get a room” — I expected this encounter would be brief.
The Coyotes were just starting a four-game road trip, they were making a late push for a playoff berth, and the last thing I expected was for Doan to carve out a chunk of his day for a 10-year-old Bruin fan.
I was wrong.
Doan asked what position and with which team Henry played. As the answers came, Doan referenced his Pentagon-sized database of hockey connections and asked Henry if he knew this player, that player, that coach…
On and on the conversation went until I looked at Rob and playfully tapped my left wrist, as if checking the time. This was quintessential Doan. There were no cameras, no reporters to record the moment (until now). There was nothing forced or fake about this moment, and that’s the way it was with the 20-year Coyote who called it quits on Wednesday.
“My first encounter with him was like the last time I saw him,” Calgary Flames general manager and former Coyote assistant GM Brad Treliving said. “He didn’t know me from Adam but he shook my hand, he was genuinely excited to meet me and talk to me and once you started talking, he was all in. He doesn’t look past you or get distracted. When you walk away from him, you think, ‘this guy is actually talking to me and you feel pretty good about that chat.”
I wrote a story for the old East Valley Tribune in 2003 when Doan became the team’s captain. The headline was simple, and as it turned out, its words perfectly captured the longtime face of the franchise, who leaves a giant void in his wake.
Shane Doan is the genuine article.
“More than anything, when I think about Shane Doan, I think about class and leadership,” former Coyote Daniel Briere said. “He was always more worried more about the people around him than he was about himself. He’s one of the best people I have ever met.”