Dad's spirit runs in junior hockey exec Terry Doran | Hockey | CBC Sports

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Inside the GameDad's spirit runs in junior hockey exec Terry Doran

Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2013 | 11:05 AM

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The Windsor Spitfires have enjoyed a rich and successful history since being founded in 1971 and joining the OHL in 1975-76. (Greg Plante/Canadian Press) The Windsor Spitfires have enjoyed a rich and successful history since being founded in 1971 and joining the OHL in 1975-76. (Greg Plante/Canadian Press)

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The scouting bug bit Terry Doran early from his late father Mike, who lost his life way too early in a car crash on his way to a junior game 29 years ago.

Hannah Doran went to work with her dad on Wednesday, sort of like her father used to trail along with his dad before there was a Take Our Kids To Work Day.

Hannah's dad Terry is the assistant general manager and director of player personnel for the Windsor Spitfires. He and his 14-year-old daughter made the 2½ hour trek from their Sarnia, Ont., home to Toronto, watched a couple of minor midget games at the brand new Buckingham Arena, situated at Downsview Park, and then drove back.

Terry enjoys the solitude world of being a hockey scout. The long road trips are peaceful. The hours and hours in a car give him an opportunity to think and sort out his thoughts. But he admitted having Hannah along was a nice change.

"It can be lonely," said Terry, who also has older daughter Haley, 16 and son Dray, 11.

"I like driving. I like the peace and the opportunity to think.

"Sure, when March rolls around you look forward to the offseason. But then, the playoffs come and you're excited again to watch some great hockey.

"It's a passion. To me, I like to say, it's a bit of sickness.

"You have to suffer through some nights in which the hockey may not be so good. But on most nights, you watch players and you can see it their eyes they are dreaming big.

"It's neat seeing the kids develop. Some of them are 5-foot-10 in September and 6-foot-1 in March."

The scouting bug bit the 50-year-old Doran early. He often accompanied his dad Mike, who initially scouted for the New York Rangers, to junior games across Ontario. They would debate whether players like Dave Gagner or Rick Wamsley or Peter Zezel or Cary Farelli were future NHLers.

The younger Doran was right about Gagner, Wamsley and Zezel. The 5-foot-6 Farelli, who scored 56 goals in 69 games for the 1974-75 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, played in an era when size mattered. He was a late-round pick for the Montreal Canadiens, but the only pro hockey he played was in Italy.

"We had a such a great time together," Terry recalled. "It was Sunday afternoon at Maple Leaf Gardens to see the Marlies.

"It was Sunday night in Oshawa. It was Friday nights in Kitchener or London."

Twenty-nine years ago, on Nov. 1, 1984, Terry was a broadcast journalism student at Fanshawe College in London, Ont. His dad, then the assistant GM of the Winnipeg Jets, called in the afternoon to make sure they were on for the following day. The Jets were to play in Detroit and Mike was going to pick up his son on his way the Motor City.

But Mike was seriously injured in a single car accident a few hours later while on his way to a game in Peterborough. It was rainy and Mike's Buick Park Avenue skidded on a rain-slicked highway near Oshawa and crashed into a pole.

He was taken to Oshawa General Hospital, then to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. He had suffered massive head and internal injuries. He fought hard to stay alive for a long time, only to slip into a coma and pass away in May 1988 at the age of 43.

Mike, a forward, was good enough to play at Cornell University in the late 1960s. He was a teammate of Ken Dryden and earned a degree in political science. He returned to his hometown of Toronto and gained acceptance into Osgoode Hall Law School.

Already married, however, he did not complete his law degree. Instead, he moved with his wife Judith, whom he met while at Cornell, to Montreal to begin work at Dupont Canada Inc. as an export salesman.

Of course, Dryden was there in Montreal. So Mike was around the hockey community. He became friends with Tom Savage, a Rangers scout, and former Habs tough guy John Ferguson, then the Rangers head coach and GM.

Mike became a part-time scout for the Rangers. Then, Ferguson took Mike along with him when Ferguson became the Jets GM. Tragically, Mike's career as a scout was cut way too short.

But his spirit certainly lives on in Terry. Thanks to his dad, Terry saw plenty of junior games and was around the NHL enough as a youth. One of his fondest memories was being in Winnipeg for the some of the 1981 Canada Cup games.

He stayed in the same hotel as the Czechs and Soviets. Russian stars Valeri Vasiliev and Aleksandr Maltsev gave him sticks that Terry still has today. He traded pins with Czech standout Jaroslav Pouzar.

A little more than a decade later, young Terry landed his first hockey gig as assistant GM with the 1993-94 Newmarket Royals. The junior franchise relocated the following year to become the Sarnia Sting. Nine games into the 1994-95 OHL season, Terry replaced Don Boyd as the team's GM. All of a sudden, he was running his first team at age 31.

The kid came through. The Sting made the playoffs, won their first playoff series in Terry's second season at the helm. Others took notice. Phoenix Coyotes director Bill Lesuk hired Terry as an Ontario scout.

"I loved scouting for Phoenix," Terry said. "I got to go to places like Finland and Switzerland.

"I was exposed to places I would not have likely experienced if it wasn't for hockey."

Now that Terry was a little older and wiser he jumped at the chance to run the Sting again. The second stint went even better. The Sting finished atop the West Division in 2003-04, but Sarnia was ousted in the first round by the Erie Otters, a result that cost Terry his job.

He wasn't out of work long. Ottawa 67's legend Brian Kilrea and his top scout Joe Rowley gave Terry a job right away. Then, in the summer of 2005, Mike was hired as head scout for GM Moe Mantha and the Windsor Spitfires. Mantha was a player Mike Doran drafted in the second round in 1980 for the Jets. 

Terry played a huge role in supplying the talent to build the Spitfires into back-to-back Memorial Cup champions in 2008-09 and 2009-10. He later added assistant GM duties to his portfolio.

He has flourished with the Spitfires in a position he enjoys. But he also hopes to get an opportunity to run his own junior team again or maybe a full-time job in the NHL.

In any event, Terry has kept his dad's spirit alive.

Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC

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