So the news that the Arizona Coyotes are not going to have captain Shane Doan back for his 22nd season has been met with a firestorm from fans, similar to the outside temperatures.
Fans love Doan. They should. He’s meant as much to the Coyotes as Larry Fitzgerald has meant to the Arizona Cardinals. But – when you’re a 40-year-old professional athlete playing in the National Hockey League against opponents half your age – it should not be a shocker to know the end is near.
Doan has been with the ‘Yotes his entire NHL career, dating back to 1995 when he was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets. He moved with the team to Arizona a year later. Over 21 seasons, he’s appeared in over 1,500 regular-season games, plus 55 more in the playoffs. This past season, Doan had just six goals in 74 games for the Coyotes – arguably not worth a roster spot if you compare salary to production.
So what’s the fallout for the Coyotes?
If played properly, the same as it’s been for some other notable fan-favorites.
World Series hero Luis Gonzalez left the Arizona Diamondbacks over salary issues to play a couple of ho-hum seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins. He returned to the Valley to re-become the face of the franchise. The team retired his number in 2010.
Even Randy Johnson, who left the D-Backs under similar circumstances, only to win his 300th game as a member of the San Francisco Giants, is back with the team in an advisory role. The club retired the Hall-of-Famer’s number in 2015.
There was similar outcry when the Phoenix Suns traded widely popular, two-time MVP Steve Nash to the hated Los Angeles Lakers. In two injury-plagued seasons with the Lakers, he was virtually a non-factor. The Suns added Nash to their ring of honor in 2015.
Since the messy divorce between beloved quarterback Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers, Favre has been inducted into the Packers’ and Pro Football halls of fame, along with the Pack retiring his number.
There are other examples and all have a common denominator: like “Little Jackie Paper” in Puff the Magic Dragon, pro athletes’ time on the field, court or ice does come to an end. There can be an afterlife. If the athlete wants to remain a part of the organization and the community – when there’s a will, there’s a way.