After finishing his NHL career with 1,540 games played, the 17th most by a single player in NHL history, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that Shane Doan is still heavily involved in the game.
However, the man who holds Coyotes franchise records in games played, goals (402), assists (570), points (972), power play goals (128) and game-winning goals (69) is not in a front office role with his former NHL club, although he is serving as a senior advisor of hockey operations for the league. Rather, Doan is the assistant coach of the 16U Phoenix Jr. Coyotes, a team that is competing in the 2019 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 16U National Championship in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“This will be my second year, but I’ve been helping out with this group since the boys were little,” said Doan. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
The only player in Coyotes franchise history to have his number retired, Doan was captain of the club for 13 seasons. He is a two-time NHL All-Star, along with a recipient of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for community service and the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award.
After collecting so many accolades at the NHL level, Doan is passing along the lessons he learned to the next generation of great hockey players.
“I just want to help the boys understand the game and get to that next level of understanding how to play the game the right way,” said Doan. “I want them to do things in the game that are important if you want to have success going onto the next level.
“Most 16U players possess skills that are pretty good, especially now with the way they’re being developed. They’re so much further ahead than I ever was. Sometimes it’s just the overall understanding of the game that I want to help out with.”
Playing in the NHL for 21 seasons is no easy feat. Over the course of Doan’s 1,540-game career, he always had the ability to take matters into his own hands on the ice. Now, as a coach, Doan’s main goal is to instill the right habits and style of play into his players.
“I try to teach the boys, it’s not always about you,” said Doan. “In team sports and in all sports, it seems that it’s becoming more and more about what I can do and what I can show. If as a player and a teammate you can realize it’s not about you, it’s amazing how much more valuable you become to your team.
“That’s the one thing that’s kind of counter-productive, is what’s portrayed on social media – it’s about what I’ve done, where I’ve committed, what I’ve accomplished. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about your teammates.
Doan and his family look on as his number 19 is raised to the rafters at Gila River Arena. Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
“That’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most, is teaching the boys that it’s not all about you. If it’s not about you and it’s not about me – it’s about the group. It’s amazing how much further you can go and how much more success you’ll have individually if you can realize that.”
Doan’s number 19 was raised to the rafters at Gila River Arena on February 24, 2019, when the Coyotes played host to the Winnipeg Jets, the team that drafted Doan seventh overall in the 1995 NHL Draft. Of course, the boys from the Jr. Coyotes were in attendance for Doan’s special night.
“That was really cool,” said Doan. “They’ve gotten to do a few different things over the years. When I retired, I had my last game and a bunch of the boys came out. That was another great moment.
“For them to all be there, that was really special. It’s amazing because I think there’s about eight of them I’ve known since they were six or seven. So, for them to be there, they’ve become like my kids. It was really fun.”
Coaching and playing definitely have their similarities, but the differences are there too. Doan knew there would be a bit of a learning curve when he stepped behind the bench and there were absolutely a few things that surprised him along the way.
“I’ve really enjoyed when a player can grasp an idea of what is expected,” said Doan. “That’s when you’re like ‘Yes!’
“You see a light go on and a player will be like, ‘I got you. I understand’
“Then all of a sudden they put into practice what you talked about. I didn’t anticipate that feeling being as great as it is. That part, I absolutely love. There’s some players you hound on and when you see it click in, that’s one of the things that I get really excited about and I didn’t anticipate that.”
This is the Jr. Coyotes third consecutive year playing in a USA Hockey National Championship tournament, a feat that is not easily accomplished. Games at the tournament are best-on-best, with the top players in the country competing for the ultimate prize. Despite an incredible career, Doan never won the Stanley Cup and wants to make sure his players relish these moments and big games.
“You only get so many opportunities to play real meaningful games in your life,” said Doan. “You get to play in a lot of regular season games. There are some very important games in the regular season, but there’s not too many times you get the chance to do something like this.
“You know, you win the next game and you’re in the top eight teams in the country. Then you win the next game and you’re in the top four.
“These are special moments that just don’t come along that often. Sometimes you always think that next year will be there, but sometimes next year isn’t as good.
“Unfortunately, when I was playing in the NHL, I was always watching someone else playing when I was done. It’s a really cool feeling walking into the arena at the end of March knowing you still have something to play for. It’s exciting that our group has had the opportunity to do it three years in a row. Our boys are still going and that’s very special.”
After a 21-year career that included so many great memories along the way, Doan is still surrounded by hockey every day. Some players take some time away from the game following retirement. Doan, however, is nowhere close to being done.
“I’ve had an absolute blast,” said Doan. “I didn’t think I was going to enjoy this nearly as much as I have. I’ve absolutely loved every second. The boys are awesome and it’s been an absolutely amazing experience.”