Shane Doan is not the oldest player still alive in the Stanley Cup playoffs, it just seems like he has been around forever.
After 1,198 regular-season games and 50 more playoff outings, the 35-year-old Phoenix Coyotes captain will embark on his first visit to the conference final, when his Coyotes meet the Los Angeles Kings in the West final opener on Sunday.
Doan just may be the sentimental favourite to finally win a Stanley Cup among those of his vintage who remain in the playoffs. He isn't as old as Raymond Bourque when he finally celebrated an NHL championship at age 40 with the Colorado Avalanche, but many would like to see Doan enjoy a similar moment. He has been a rugged, dependable player since he broke in with the 1995-96 Winnipeg Jets as an 18-year-old.
"Shane is one of those guys that leads by example," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "He's one of the hardest working players you're going to find in practice. He goes into every game with preparation and detail into every game is at the forefront of what you want any captain to be.
"You take the hockey side of it as well as who he is as a person and how he lives his life. He's just a stand-up guy that every teammate will tell you is a wonderful person. So you combine those two, strong player, good person, and you get a great leader."
Doan won two Memorial Cups with the Kamloops Blazers. He won two gold medals with Canada at world championships, another title with Canada at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and played for Canada at the 2006 Olympics. But this playoff run is the closest he has come to winning a Stanley Cup.
He has endured plenty with the cost-cutting Coyotes franchise. There was the unexpected extended trip to the minors in his third NHL season. Then, there was the controversy in which he was accused and later exculpated of uttering a racial slur at a francophone on-ice official in a Dec. 2005 game. And, until this spring, there has been the heartbreak of eight one-and-done playoff runs with Phoenix.
Doan was sent to the minors halfway through 1997-98, his third NHL season, when after a road game against the Florida Panthers, he was pulled off the team bus and told he had been demoted to the Coyotes farm club in Springfield, Mass.
He was furious and felt abandoned. But first he had to find his own way out of the dangerous neighbourhood that the old Miami Arena was situated in. He was sent down because it was a way the Coyotes could save some money and it still bothers him.
"Did it help me?" he said. "I'm hesitant to say that that worked out well for me because of the situation that I got sent down in. But at the same time, once I got there, I really enjoyed playing hockey there.
"I still disagree with them sending me down. But I really, really enjoyed the group and the team we had in Springfield. It was a great group of guys. I had an absolute blast. I got to go hang out with people my age and I really enjoyed it."
Doan wound up scoring 21 goals and 42 points in 39 games in Springfield. He then was called up for the Coyotes playoff run that lasted only one round.
Disappointment of demotion
Plenty of his veteran Phoenix teammates helped him overcome the disappointment of the demotion.
That's why two years ago, when his young teammate Mikkel Boedker was assigned to the minors in his second season after playing his entire rookie year with the Coyotes, Doan helped him get over the setback.
"Our entire team when I was here was unbelievable with helping me," Doan said. "I know Bobby Corkum called me a couple times when I was in the minors. Craig Janney helped me out and Keith Tkachuk and Teppo Numminen were a couple guys that were here at the time. Cliff Ronning helped me out, too. They were unbelievably supportive of me. The whole situation was kind of mixed up and they kept encouraging me and making sure that I stayed focused. So it was really nice."
Playoffs over-the-hill gang
Doan is among a dozen players 35 or older still alive in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs:
40 - Martin Brodeur, Devils; Ray Whitney, Coyotes.
39 - Johan Hedberg, Devils; Mike Knuble, Capitals.
38 - Adrian Aucoin, Coyotes; Roman Hamrlik, Capitals.
36 - Bryce Salvador, Devils; Patrik Elias, Devils; Jeff Halpern, Capitals.
35 - Daymond Langkow, Coyotes; Petr Sykora, Devils + Doan.
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