Longtime Coyotes captain Doan sees in-state youth hockey growth as ‘exciting’
If there is an individual who keeps his one eye on the rink and the other in the community, it’s Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan.
Now in his 20th NHL season, Doan has amassed all offensive records in franchise history. At the same time, he keeps an invaluable eye on development and rise of youth hockey in Arizona. Committed by his own passion to the game and the progress of teams in the area, Doan’s eye on this window is unique.
Over the two decades of skating in the desert, Doan has witnessed the growth of youth hockey to a certain extent that he, among others, is not clearly certain as to the trajectory. One estimate shows that by the end of 2015, 7329 youth players were registered. That represented a growth of 50 percent from the previous count in 2012. These numbers are based on registration figures compiled by USA Hockey.
“Starting in the beginning here in the Valley, there were only two rinks with ice,” Doan said. “Now, there’s six used with any regularity. The Ice Den in Scottsdale is one of the premier buildings in North America. The amount of people playing there has drastically grown. It’s been going for about 20 years and you’re starting to see the fruit of 20 years. It’s exciting.”
Doan estimates the number of youth playing in the greater Phoenix area is about eight to 10 times the number of players from when he arrived. Playing with the old Winnipeg Jets in their final season in Canada before transferring the franchise to Phoenix, Doan remains in a unique position to monitor success.
While the number of those registered remains impressive, the move of the Coyotes from the tundra of Canada to the Valley of the Sun clearly precipitated growth. Now with the NHL moving into Las Vegas next season, Doan said he expects a similar spurt in youth hockey in neighboring Nevada.
One by-product of this growth is the development of players like Scottsdale native Auston Matthews. After his four-goal opening night effort and selection to the 2017 NHL All-Star Game, Matthews clearly lived up to the expectation of being the No. 1 pick overall in last June’s draft. While the youth hockey programs remain ambitious and determined to move forward, Matthews represents a unique and gifted hockey player.
“I don’t think there are many players like Auston Matthews coming out of anywhere,” Doan said. “There’s a reason why he’s so effective. The chance you’ll have another one like him is pretty remote, but I think the ability to produce professional hockey players is here. There’s definitely opportunity coming up and that’s something as a state, Arizona can certainly be proud.”
Aside from his observation, Doan is a hands-on dad and a principal promoter of youth hockey as his 14-year-old son, Josh, skates for the Jr. Coyotes.
While winning tournaments of this nature would be gratifying, the fact that teams from Arizona are now in a conversation with teams throughout North America says something exclusive about the caliber of play and commitment.
“You want to make the state of Arizona one of the top states in the country for youth hockey,” he said. “A program which would be in the 10th, 15th in the nation. Yes, likely the end result of a competitive program. During a good year, you would have a chance to go to nationals and do well. If you’re able to do that, this brings everyone else along with it.”
While all the pieces would be in place for success, Doan adds, it’s the nature of winning which spurs the growth. Winning is exciting, winning gets people involved and winning clearly represents a catalyst for growth and expansion.
— Mark Brown