Coyote Cowboy Phoenix winger Shane Doan was born for the rodeo but instead became the best hockey player you've never heard of

February 02, 2004

The Phoenix Coyotes' right wing with a body like an SUV's and a
name out of an old Western was selected to play in the NHL
All-Star Game on Feb. 8, but Shane Doan is not the best athlete
in his family. His younger sister, Leighann, who in high school
set an Alberta province record in the shot put and was a standout
in the 100-meter dash, is a 5'11" small forward who led the
French women's pro basketball league in scoring last season.
Shane's cousin's wife, Catriona LeMay Doan, is the two-time
reigning Olympic speed skating champion at 500 meters. And while
it's too early in Shane's career to assess his Hockey Hall of
Fame possibilities, if he were to be inducted one day, he would
become only the family's sixth sports immortal, following the
well-worn path of grandfather Muff Doan; great-uncles Jack Wade,
Urban and Earl; and uncle Phil Doan--all members of the Canadian
Rodeo Hall of Fame. "In my family either you're a cowboy or a
hockey player," Shane says of his male relatives. "And I wasn't
tough enough to be a cowboy." ¶ Instead of calf roping and
bullriding, the chiseled 6'2", 216-pound Doan chose the dainty
job of crashing the net, banging in the corner and hammering
defensemen. Hey, it's a living and buys as much quiche as a
fellow can eat. With nods to the Vancouver Canucks' Todd
Bertuzzi, a veritable Coke machine on skates, and the St. Louis
Blues' Keith Tkachuk, a marauder, the 27-year-old Doan is the
most relentlessly physical of the NHL's elite power wingers--not
that anyone outside the game could pick him out of a hockey lineup.

Playing in a nontraditional hockey city such as Phoenix and with
one of the youngest teams in the league, the Coyotes might as
well be in the Federal Witness Protection Program. But
considering that the franchise, which was relocated from Winnipeg
in 1996, hasn't won a playoff series since '87, it comes by its
anonymity honestly. "This is my ninth season," says Doan, the
only remaining Coyote who played for the Winnipeg Jets, "and
we've never had the team success that makes everyone look

Doan hails from the east-central Alberta town of Halkirk (pop.
150) and appreciates wide-open spaces, which is fortunate because
on Jan. 21, in the sixth game in the Coyotes' new jewel of a
17,799-seat arena in suburban Phoenix, about 11,000 fans watched
the home team lose 4-2 to the Pacific Division-leading San Jose
Sharks. In that game Doan nailed Sharks defenseman Tom Preissing
and center Mike Ricci, drew a holding-the-stick penalty on Ricci
that gave Phoenix a 5-on-3 advantage, quarterbacked the power
play and scored his 18th goal on a whistling slap shot in the
final minute. After beating the Detroit Red Wings 5-2 three
nights later--Doan assisted on the first goal--the Coyotes were
18-15-13-2 and three points from the final playoff berth in the
Western Conference.

"When I was with Anaheim, we looked at drafting Doan as a
potential power forward [to be a guy] like Billy Guerin and Keith
Tkachuk," says San Jose coach Ron Wilson. (In that 1995 draft the
Mighty Ducks took Chad Kilger, another big forward, with the
fourth pick; Doan went seventh to Winnipeg.) "Those guys are
really ornery, and I didn't sense then that Shane had the
personality for the job. He's always been a real nice guy and a
well-rounded person, but now he's playing like a cowboy roping
cattle. He's improved every year, which is unusual for a guy
who's been in the league this long. He adds something to his game
every season."

The most noticeable addition in 2003-04 is the C on Doan's
jersey. The iconic value of the captaincy is immeasurable in
hockey, especially among Canadians. Nearly an hour after the last
of his teammates had fled the rink following the loss to the
Sharks, Doan was sitting on a couch in the players' lounge
ticking off the storied captains from his youth--Wayne Gretzky in
Edmonton, Lanny McDonald in Calgary, Dale Hawerchuk in Winnipeg,
Bob Gainey in Montreal--viscerally humbled that general manager
Mike Barnett and coach Bobby Francis considered him worthy.
(Former captain Teppo Numminen was traded last summer.) "Since he
put on that C, he's been totally different," says Coyotes
fourth-liner Tyson Nash, who was Doan's junior-hockey teammate in
Kamloops, B.C. "He feels a new responsibility and the pressure of
leading us into the playoffs. And that's what he's bound to do."

Spurred over the last eight months by the hat trick of winning
the 2003 world championship as a member of Team Canada, shedding
about 15 pounds in an off-season conditioning program and adding
that glorious letter to his sweater, Doan has gained a wealth of
confidence. At week's end he ranked 12th in the NHL in scoring
with 47 points and was on pace to easily surpass his career best
of 63. His shots on goal were also way up, after Francis had
prodded him before the season to fire away. Doan's shot is
heavy--"It's like a lead puck coming at you," says Detroit's Kirk
Maltby, a shot-blocking forward--even if it can be wayward. There
is a little Nuke LaLoosh in Doan's one-timer: You never know when
one of his blasts will hit a mascot.

"Doaner's very religious," says Philadelphia Flyers center Jeremy
Roenick, a former Coyotes teammate. "He was praying to God every
day to score goals. He's in good with the Lord right now."

But as his parents, Bernie and Bernice, told Shane, it is easier
to talk about the Bible than to live it, so he rarely mentions
his religion. Bernie and Bernice run one of Canada's 10 Circle
Square ranches, a string of Christian children's summer retreats,
on their 320 acres in Halkirk. Shane learned to ride a horse at
two, and before adolescence he was helping move cattle and lead
trail rides. Occasionally he would ride five miles to junior high
school--bareback--and leave the horse in a nearby paddock
belonging to one of his friends. When Shane was 12, Johnny Cash
and his band stopped by the Circle Square because they had three
days off between concerts in Edmonton and Calgary. Cash performed
for the family, and some of his roadies took the Doans' horses
out on the trails.

Growing up, Shane also had ample time for hockey, a sport in
which his father had excelled. In 1971 Bernie was drafted 80th by
St. Louis, but he never played in the NHL. While with Toledo of
the International Hockey League in '72, he read the Bible and
prayed for direction in his life. The direction he was pointed
was north-northwest, to Saskatchewan. He quit hockey at 20,
attended the Full Gospel Bible Institute and then in '74
graduated and married Bernice. Four years later they moved to the
ranch. Besides his work there Bernie coached Shane's teams until
he was a teenager.

While furthering the family's hockey legacy Shane has also been
propagating the family's values. He and his wife, Andrea, have
two children, Gracie, 5, and Joshua, 2, and are active in the
Phoenix community, working closely with an organization called
United Blood Services. They board three horses for riding around
their home and have another 20 or so in Canada. Shane plans to
breed and train horses after his hockey career ends, although
that is a long way down the trail. "Doaner should be at the top
of his game for years," Phoenix assistant coach Rick Bowness
says. "The physical side always has been there, the scoring has
been there, and now it's all come together."

He's being asked to carry a forgotten franchise into the dazzling
light of May and June. He might not think he is tough enough, but
Shane Doan must cowboy up.

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAVID E. KLUTHO DRY ICE Doan, who boards three horses near his home outside Phoenix, has flourished as the Coyotes' captain this season. COLOR PHOTO: JEFF VINNICK/GETTY IMAGES HEAD-ON As Vancouver goalie Dan Cloutier found out, Doan doesn't hesitate to crash the crease if it leads to a goal. COLOR PHOTO: MARK J. TERRILL/AP A WORLD-CLASS FAMILY In addition to hockey, the Doans boast stars in basketball, rodeo and speed skating Sister Leighann led the French women's basketball league in scoring last year. B/W PHOTO: GLENBOW ARCHIVES [See caption above] Grandpa Muff was one of five Doans to become Rodeo Hall of Fame inductees. COLOR PHOTO: FRANK GUNN/CP [See caption above] Catriona, wife of Shane's cousin Bart (right), won two Olympic gold medals.

"Doaner's very religious," says Roenick. "He was praying to God
every day to score goals. He's in good with the Lord right now."

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