GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan had chances to leave the desert for a better shot at winning the Stanley Cup.
Every time, he resisted the urge, a loyalty that cemented his legacy as one of the most beloved athletes in Valley of the Sun history.
Now, Doan is hanging up his skates, leaving as one of nine NHL players to play at least 21 seasons with the same franchise.
''I've been blessed and I'm so grateful for the fans and their support,'' Doan wrote in a letter published by The Arizona Republic on Wednesday. ''They stuck by me throughout my career and the ups and downs of the Coyotes. 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. I can't express how much I appreciate it.''
Doan became a Phoenix icon through his hard-working and thoughtful ways. He was the last player off the ice after nearly every Coyotes practice, often entering the locker room out of breath and drenched in sweat.
Doan was the consummate captain, someone who led by example, was both comforting and demanding of his teammates at the same time. He gave back to the community like few athletes have and always had a friendly smile and handshake for fans who wanted to say hello or take a photo with him.
''On behalf of the entire Arizona Coyotes organization, our fans and our corporate partners, we would like to thank Shane for everything that he's done for our franchise over the past 21 years,'' the Coyotes said in a statement. ''Shane had an incredible career on the ice and we are very proud of everything that he accomplished in a Coyotes uniform. He will be remembered as one of the greatest captains in NHL history. Off the ice, Shane was a great ambassador for growing the game of hockey in Arizona and his contributions to the community are immeasurable. Shane will be a Coyote for life. Thank you Captain!''
Doan was selected by the Winnipeg Jets with the seventh overall pick of the 1995 NHL draft and followed the franchise to the desert the next year. He became the embodiment of the Coyotes, relishing in the glory of the team's run to the 2012 Western Conference Finals, putting on a brave face during the difficult times.
Built like a refrigerator on skates, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Doan played with a combination of grit and skill, skating every shift with the same intensity.
Doan racked up franchise records through longevity and productiveness, becoming the franchise's all-time leader with 1,540 games, 402 goals, 570 assists and 128 power-play goals, among others. He fought through various injuries and remained a steady force, leading the Coyotes with 28 goals while notching 19 assists just two seasons ago.
Doan saw a slip in production last season, finishing with six goals and 21 assists, and the final game of the 2016-17 season felt like a going-away party for him, filled with tributes and speeches.
The Coyotes announced in June that they would not be re-signing the captain in an effort to skew the roster younger. That made the 40-year-old a free agent and left him to decide whether to hang up his skates or play for another team.
A devout Christian, Doan prayed and talked it over with his wife, Andrea, for months before deciding it was time.
''I truly believe this is His timing.'' Doan wrote. ''I have peace, and I'm so thankful for that.''