Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Doan: A Playoff Hero Finally after 16 Years

Larry Wigge

It was near ecstasy on the scarred, but venerable face of an old veteran.

Shane Doan had grown up and played his first season and playoffs with the Winnipeg Jets and through the next 16 years with the transplanted Phoenix Coyotes. Eight times his team went out on the first round of the playoffs.

Doan's feeling of exhilaration over eliminating the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the quarterfinal round matchp was mind-blowing. After all, he's the last remaining member from Winnipeg. Eight times his team went out on the first round of the playoffs.

"It's exciting," said the 35-year-old captain. "In other years, we were one and done. I know better than anyone wining the first round of the playoffs, it's the hardest to win ... because I've never done it."

And now ...

"It's the first step," continued Doan. "It's a relief, because you just want to get a chance to do something in the playoffs and make some noise. Everyone always talks about if you get out of the first round anything can happen. Now we've got to find a way to win that next round and that's really our next goal ... to win four more games. If we do that, we'll regroup again. Now, we've got that chance."

It's a long journey for a heart and soul player ... one very much worth the wait.

There's a plaque -- probably covered in dust in a closet back home at Bernie and Bernice Doan's Circle Square Ranch in Halkirk, Alberta, which doubles as a Christian camp for kids of all ages, where the youngsters come to ride horses, swim and do archery -- that chronicles a pretty interesting and intense hockey rivalry that not many people know about.

But we'll get back to that later. First, you have to be brought up to speed on a little bit of background from this famous -- and some may call infamous -- athletic family out there in the Old West.

Shane Doan is the captain of the Phoenix Coyotes. He's had a pretty remarkable career in the NHL since he was the first-round draft choice of the Winnipeg Jets in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, playing his entire career with the same organization. But there are those out there in Canada's old West that swear that even if Shane made it to the Hall of Fame some day, he still wouldn't be the most famous member of his own family.

Five other members of Doan's family are already in Halls of Fame -- starting with his grandfather Muff Doan, who was the bareback champion at the Calgary Stampede back in 1937 and steer-riding champion in 1944, followed by great uncles Jack Wade, Urban and Earl and uncle Phil Doan -- all of whom are members of the Canadian Rodeo Hall of fame. But the feats of athleticism don't stop there. Shane's younger sister, Leighann, set an Alberta province record in the shot put and was a standout in the 100 meter dash before she turned her attention to basketball and led the French women's pro basketball league in scoring.

And that doesn't even take into consideration the hockey threads that marvelously are intertwined between the extended family that include the Ellerbys and Prices.

That puck history started with Shane's dad, Bernie, a defenseman who was picked in the sixth round of the 1971 NHL Draft by the St. Louis Blues and also includes the first-rounders -- Shane by Winnipeg, Carey Price by Montreal in 2005 and Keaton Ellerby by Florida in 2007. Plus, Ellerby's dad, Cal, played for the Calgary Wranglers junior team. His uncle, Dallas Ellerby, skated for Calgary, Edmonton and Victoria in the Western Hockey League. And Price's dad, Jerry, was a Calgary junior goalie, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers.

Instead of calf roping and bullriding, the 6-2, 216-pound Doan chose to be an NHL power forward and crash the net, bang in the corners and hammer defensemen. In 2004, Shane made it to an All-Star Game for the first time. Now he's back in 1999 ... and Price, his second cousin, just happens to be on the other side.

Knowing the history of this highly-competitive family, I wondered if Shane had already sent a warning shot out to Price.

"No I haven't warned him about wiring a high hard one at his head, if that's what you mean," Doan said with a mischievous smile on his face.

"Nothing would surprise me with Shane. He's a great guy. I always looked up to him when I was growing up. But I really do expect him to pull something out of his hat that's a little different if he had a great scoring chance against me," Price shot back. "Every year about this time they show that All-Star Game highlight of Owen Nolan pointing at Dominik Hasek (from the 1997 All-Star Game in San Jose) and then putting the puck right where he was pointing. I can see Shane trying something like that."

Not so, said Doan, adding, "I don't have those kinds of skills. I have to keep both hands on the stick at the same time."

Typical soft-peddling added Price, saying, "Shane's got better hands than he's letting on."

Do I hear a little bit of trash-talking? Well, sort of.

Said Doan, "All I know is Carey is 2-0 against the Coyotes ... but I've got goals in both games."

Feeling that another but was coming, I encourage Shane to continue, "And in the game he won this year, I broke up his shutout bid in the third period, which kind of ticked him off a little."

The Doans, Ellerbys and Prices have a history of hard-working, hotly-competitive, argumentative parties over the years. It's not as fabled as the Hatfields and McCoys or as bloody as the McCartys and Lemieuxs, but ...

That plaque we spoke of represents a series of hockey battles between the Doans and the Ellerbys.

"Every year on Boxing Day for about five or six years between 1988 and 1994, we'd have a family party that wound up on the ice," Doan recalled, with this vicious look on his face and lively memories to spare. "It would start out like a picnic. But then it would get pretty competitive when we took out our hostilities on the ice."

"I remember one year my cousin Darcy ran over my dad," Shane said with fire in his eyes. "I HAD to get back at him for that.

"Another year my uncle Cal was creamed. And I had to stand up for my teammate in that situation, too."

And that plaque? "It shows that the Ellerbys won most of those games," Shane said proudly.

Wait a minute, Shane. Don't you mean the Doans?

"No, back in 1988, I was only 12 and the Doans thought they were the greatest thing in hockey since Gordie Howe and Rocket Richard and they didn't want a kid on their team," Shane laughed. "The Ellerbys didn't have as many players as the Doans and my dad (whose wife is an Ellerby) said they would be glad to have me play for them.

"After a few years, the Doans wanted me to change sides and play for them. But I told them, 'No way. You had your chance.' "

Price was only four or five when he got his first taste of the family rivalry ... but only as a fan of those games.

"I always thought that Shane was always the best player," Price added. "Those games were hotly competitive. I remember a couple of games were real bloodbaths.

"The men in our family are not known for having soft hands -- not when they all were a bunch of farmers and ranchers."

I wondered if Shane Doan had ever thought about following in the footsteps of his uncles and being a rodeo star.

"Not me," he laughed. "They're all tougher than me. It takes a different breed to do that."

I think we'd all agree that Shane is a different breed as well -- great character, leader, hard to play against.

Shane Doan and his wife have a similar type of ranch in Phoenix. Call it Halkirk East, which doubles as a Christian camp for kids of all ages, where the youngsters come to ride horses, swim and do archery.

So you see, Shane has those same hard hands of a farmer or ranchers. But you see, the goals his parents set forth make him a true human being.

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