For more than 20 years, Shane Doan has been terrorizing the Los Angeles Kings. In so many ways, he’s the last of a dying breed – whether talking about a true power forward in the NHL or a player who stays his entire career with one team. The 40-year-old Canadian is truly something special.
We’ve been privileged to have countless conversations with Doan through the years, including this memorable exchange following the Kings and Coyotes unforgettable series during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, our most recent chat, prior to what is most likely his final trip into Staples Center tonight, had a much more somber tone. Reality is starting to creep in. After more than 1,500 regular and post-season contests, the always humble leader is close to hanging up his skates.
“For sure,” exclaimed Doan, when we asked if Dallas and Los Angeles were still the two teams he gets most pumped up to play against, something he first shared with us a few years ago. “Those games seem to matter so much, every game, no matter what; even when we’re in a situation where we’re not winning very often. I think I’ve played LA over 100 times now [MM: 110 times to be exact] and it’s so much fun when you think about all the games.”
In December 2014, Doan played his 100th career game vs the Kings. Yet, you’d have to go all the way back to December 1995 for the first one.
“I remember playing at the old Forum [in Inglewood] against Gretzky,” said Doan, as we reminisced about some of his favorite moments when facing the Kings over the past two decades. “That would be one of the memories that I remember most, playing against Gretzky for first time and thinking how amazing that was. That would probably be on the top things I’ll remember.”
At the time, only six months removed from being the seventh overall pick at the 1995 NHL Draft, Doan was just breaking into the league. He picked up an assist that night. Meanwhile, Gretzky had the game-winning goal in a 6-3 Kings victory.
The following month, Doan and the then-Winnipeg Jets returned to the Great Western Forum and managed to reverse the script. Doan scored his first-ever goal against the Kings and his squad picked up a 5-4 win.
Since then, Doan has gone on to score in 32 different games vs. Los Angeles, potting 37 total goals. His story, though, can’t simply be told in just stats. There have also plenty of fights, moments of controversy, and certainly a large amount of emotions that have spilled over on a routine basis.
“I wish there were more good memories than bad ones,” Doan added, in a moment of honest reflection. “There are too many bad ones, as they’ve been one of the premiere teams; so most of your memories are important games where they’ve been on the right side of the wins.”
Not surprisingly, we were quickly back to 2012.
“Winning Game 4 of the Western Conference Final 2-0 here was big for us because we forced Game 5 back home. Then, we lost at home. I’ll never forget that feeling. That one stinks.”
A few months before that, the Coyotes charged their way to a 1-0 victory over the Kings at Staples Center. It was one of those rare regular season games fans still talk about years later. And, in many ways, it set the stage for their epic playoff battle later that spring.
“We had a big game here, right before we went on a run, after a period where we had been struggling a little bit,” said Doan, when speaking about that February 16, 2012 contest. “Smitty [Mike Smith] was unbelievable and I think there were four or five fights in the game too. It was a game we won, and then we went on to win [five] in a row after that. It’s one of those games that you remember and those are fun.”
Among the bevy of fisticuffs that night was a battle of team captains, with Doan and Dustin Brown squaring off to settle a score.
“I had another game against them the next season where I had two goals and a bunch of hits and shots,” noted Doan, recalling a March 2013 game that saw him notch a pair of goals on 11 shots.
“We lost again, so there I go being selfish again, thinking of myself,” he said with his big trademark laugh. “But that’s the way it is, we’ve had a lot of games in here that have been intense and we’ve been on the wrong side of too many.”
Even has his career winds to a close, Doan remains a student of the game. As we’ve noted several times on twitter through the years, his knowledge of the Kings system, including players at the AHL level, has always been impressive. Still, given his volume of painful memories against the Kings, it’s also no surprise several bigger names resonate more as he talks about his career.
“The names you recognize that are so big and good for them – when they won those Cups every other year,” he began, as he was about to go on a roll through the Kings’ roster. “You look through their lineup. They had Richards [Mike], Jarret Stoll, and on the back end, they had guys who were hard to play against with [Matt] Greene, [Robyn] Regehr. But even as the game has kind of changed a little bit, they’ve been able to add guys like [Tyler] Toffoli and [Tanner] Pearson that are great players in their own right. I’m a huge fan of [Kyle] Clifford and [Jordan] Nolan too. The Kings built their team the right way and that’s why it’s lasted so long.”
The same could be said for Doan. He was built to play hockey. He’s done it the right way for nearly a quarter century. And that’s why he’s lasted so long.
Doan is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, both on and off the ice. His legacy stretches from the prairies of Western Canada to Winnipeg where he first broke in, and down south to Arizona where he has been a mainstay through far too much chaos.
If tonight is the night, the end of an era, he will be missed. Hockey is better when it has guys like Shane Doan playing the game.
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