Fans vote ‘Captain Coyote’ as Valley’s No. 1 sports figure
Larry Fitzgerald has played every snap of what will be a Hall of Fame football career with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.
Paul Goldschmidt is a two-time All-Star, MVP candidate and has earned the moniker as “America’s First Baseman” with baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks.
But when the Arizona Republic recently asked readers to identify the most popular sports figure in the Valley, guess who received nearly seven of every 10 votes from the fans?
It was a hockey player – but not just any hockey player – the one and only “Captain Coyote.”
About to begin his 20th NHL season and 19th in Arizona, Shane Doan has collected 368 goals, 898 points and the admiration of both diehard and casual hockey fans in the desert. They love him for his rugged style on the ice, his gentlemanly and friendly nature off it and his determination – through a series of ownership, coaching and players changes – to prove that the NHL belongs in Arizona.
He received 69 percent of the vote (4,728) compared to 14 percent for Fitzgerald (985) and seven percent for Goldschmidt (521). That was more than enough to make Doan blush.
“When I heard about it – and my friends made sure I did hear about it – my first thought was ‘pretty humorous,’“ Doan said. “I’ve taken a lot of ribbing.
“I’m the biggest sports fan there is and I follow all the Arizona teams, Larry is one of the top receivers to ever play and you see what Goldschmidt has done the last couple of years. I’m a big fan of both of them.”
The fans overwhelmingly picked Doan, who turns 39 in October and continues to be a model of consistency for the Coyotes.
“I’ve been around longer than most of them put together, and all of it here in the Valley,” said Doan. “I’m sure the longevity helps and having so many fans hear the name. I can tell you I would have picked those guys before me.”
Doan could become the all-time franchise leader in goals, assists and points this season, which promises to be one of change with a pack of new Coyotes – a byproduct of another rebuilding project.
Doan was upset to lose some close friends in trades and free agency, most notably defenseman Keith Yandle (traded to the New York Rangers in March), but has been energized by some of the additions made in the offseason and the young talent like budding star Max Domi that will be part of the mix.
“They brought in a bunch of NHL-level players that are legit and guys that are going to help us,” he said. “And at the same time, we have a bunch of young guys that are going to help us and push the veterans. I’m excited to see them and how they develop.”
This is the final year of Doan’s contract, and his future in Arizona, and the NHL, depends on how 2015-16 goes. He has worked hard during the offseason – his workouts in Canada included his 13-year-old son, Josh, this time – to prepare for the same ice-time workload he has always carried.
But he understands that playing time will have to be earned as he creeps up on his 40s.
“I’m going to be playing with kids almost half my age, so I have to make sure I’m ready,” Doan said. “You’re doing things that aren’t fun, but you have to do it, especially at this point in my career.
“I still feel I can play just as hard and I don’t want any less time, but you have to trust your coach (Dave Tippett) to make the right decisions. At the same time, he has to know you’re not going to like it if you don’t play as much.”
The fans might not like it either. In case you haven’t heard, Doan’s a pretty popular guy.
— Matt Cooper