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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, shut 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 l00 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 choose the dainty job of crashing the net, banging in the corner and hammering defensemen. Hey, it's a having 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 better."
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, quarter-backed 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—die 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 die 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 Pack Bowness says. "The physical side always has been there, the scoring has been there, and now it's all come together."