Shane Doan was hearing his name being chanted in a National Hockey League building for the very first time, and he wasn’t even wearing hockey equipment. He was wearing a suit and tie.
It was the 1995 draft in Edmonton, and Oilers general manager Glen Sather had stepped behind the podium to make the sixth pick of the first round. In the days leading up to the draft, the Edmonton Journal had sent a reporter to Doan’s central Alberta farm near Halkirk, Alta., dispatching pictures of a burly young farm kid herding cows and riding horses.
He was all Alberta, all the time, this kid. A God-fearing, bail chuckin’, truck drivin’ Westerner who folks in Edmonton figured could slot right into the Battle of Alberta next to Ryan Smyth, who had been picked the year before.
“Shane Doan! Shane Doan! Shane Doan!” the crowd chanted.
“The Oilers are pleased to select,” said Sather, “from the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League, Steve Kelly.”
The rest, as they say, is mystery.
The Winnipeg Jets would snap Doan up with the very next pick, and other than following the franchise to Arizona in 1996, he would never wear the uniform of another NHL organization. And in hindsight, those Oilers fans likely should have been chanting Jarome Iginla’s name anyhow. He went 11th to Dallas.
As for Kelly, he played 149 NHL games, scoring nine goals.
“I’m retiring from the NHL,” penned Doan in a thoughtful first-person article that ran in the Arizona Republic on Thursday morning. “My wife, Andrea, and I have prayed about this, and I truly believe this is His timing. I have peace, and I’m so thankful for that.”
Doan played 21 NHL seasons, 1,540 games, and retires with scoring totals that read 402-570-972. Finishing just 28 points shy of 1,000 is unfortunate testimony to the fact his feet slowed and hands betrayed in his final few seasons.
One assumes Doan might have entertained one more season, had another NHL organization reached out after the Coyotes announced this summer that they would not be bringing Doan back for a 22nd campaign. Or maybe not, though his announcement on Aug. 30 leads one to surmise that Doan’s line was drawn not at accepting a one-year deal somewhere, but attending camp on a professional tryout.
Maybe it was about remaining a one-franchise player, however. It is common knowledge that Doan was shopped as a rental player at more than one trade deadline late in his career, but he never found a trade palatable enough to sign off on any deal.
This is best, anyhow. Like the Sedin brothers in Vancouver, Doan would look odd in new colours.
At 40, it’s simply time for one of the better players of his generation. As solid as Doan’s build was, so too was his character. He fought, scored, led and bled for the Coyotes every inch of the way, though sadly never played in a Stanley Cup Final.
“There are a lot of players with more skill than me and a lot more ability than me that didn’t ever get the type of appreciation that I got and the type of respect that the fans gave me, and I’m so grateful for that,” Doan wrote. “Even though April 8 (2017) wasn’t announced as my last game, I knew it probably was. When the game ended, I remember thinking, ‘This is the last NHL game I’ll be on the ice looking up instead of looking down.’ And even though my perspective will be different, my love for the NHL won’t change and I’ll continue to share that passion with the hockey fans in Arizona.”
He was an Olympian in 2006, that forgettable Turin tournament where Canada bowed out in the quarter-finals, and he pulled on the red and white Maple Leaf six times at world championships. So he did, eventually, get in a few shifts with Smyth.
Fate played its cards that day in Edmonton, and they gave the Jets/Coyotes a pretty good hand. You could do worse than Shane Doan, as good a person as you’ll meet in the game, and a damned fine player.