“I’d rather you call me the worst hockey player in the world and say that I don’t deserve to be on the team,” the beleaguered Canadian captain said after practice at the IIHF World Hockey Championship. “Anything like that, that’s fine. You can say whatever you want.
“But don’t question my character. Don’t question the basis of what I am.”
Opposition leaders Stephane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe did just that in Ottawa on Monday, when they suggested in the House of Commons that he was unfit to lead the Canadian team at the tournament because of derogatory comments he is alleged to have made about French-Canadians in an NHL game some 17 months ago.
The allegations have never been proven. Doan denies making any slurs and he has been cleared by an NHL investigation.
Doan’s answer to the first question about the political barbs back home lasted more than five minutes. While clearly hurt by the politicians’ comments, he spoke clearly and calmly about things like character, honour and pride and even apologized afterwards for taking so long to answer.
“I don’t understand how people can attack somebody when I was cleared by the NHL,” said Doan. “Anybody that does any type of investigation into it would realize I never said it.
“And yet, they can just throw it out in the House of Commons? Those are our leaders. Those are the people that we’re supposed to look to.”
The allegations stem from a game in December 2005 between Doan’s Phoenix Coyotes and the Montreal Canadiens. Linesman Michel Cormier says he heard Doan utter a slur against Francophones while skating by him.
Doan says he was trying to calm down goalie Curtis Joseph during a skirmish and wasn’t even talking to any of the officials.
“I stand on my word,” said Doan. “I did not say a single thing. I didn’t say anything even remotely close to what is being said that I said.
“I guess that’s probably the most frustrating thing is that you can talk to my teammates, you can talk to anybody that knows me. I wouldn’t have said that. Some of my best friends are French-Canadians.”
The issue was brought to life Monday when all three opposition leaders suggested the Canadian government speak out against Doan’s captaincy. The NDP’s Layton even suggested it “cast a shadow” on the Canadian team.
The government refused to bite, saying Doan’s appointment was not a government decision.
But that changed on Tuesday after all parties supported a Bloc Quebecois motion that demands officials from Hockey Canada appear before the House of Commons’ Official Languages Committee to explain their decision to name Doan the team’s captain.
Doan, 30, says he’s always been conscious of how he’s carried himself during 11 years in the NHL.
“I play hockey and everything, but the person that I am is way more important,” said Doan. “I take incredible pride in being a role model . . .
“I can’t believe that anybody would make allegations or say something about me that has never, ever met me or talked to me.”
Doan grew up on a ranch in Halkirk, Alta., where his parents ran a Christian camp for kids. The importance of respect and treating others well were repeatedly taught during his childhood.
He has spent a lifetime trying to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and has left a mark on many of the people who have met him.
“There’s not a nicer guy in the world than Shane Doan,” Coyotes CEO Jeff Shumway said from Phoenix. “I wasn’t around when whatever happened, happened, but I have never heard Shane say a bad word about anybody. It would certainly surprise me if he ever said anything like that.”
Doan is a devout Christian who is often teased by teammates for his unwillingness to swear. Fudge is the word he’s most likely to use while upset.
Mike Cammalleri has felt Doan’s influence and is reluctant to say a bad word in front of him. He can’t imagine his captain ever offending anyone.
“Anybody that knows Shane will tell you that it’s a very hard thing for any of us to believe that he said something like that,” said Cammalleri. “He’s pretty much the perfect leader when you think of a guy you want for Team Canada.
“I’m astonished. It just seems like the shoe doesn’t fit.”
Doan won gold medals at the world championship in 2003 and 2004 and was named captain before the start of this year’s tournament.
Coach Andy Murray strongly defended the player he chose to lead his team.
“Shane Doan has answered the call whenever Canada’s asked,” said Murray. “He’s leaving four kids to come over here. He’s done enough that he probably had the right to maybe say no and he never has said no to Canada.
“That’s all I’ll say about it – it’s just the fact that I think he’s a real Canadian.”
Perhaps somewhere down the line the players might be thanking the politicians.
The controversy could provide a rallying point for the 2-0 Canadians heading into Wednesday’s game against Slovakia – the first real test they’ll face in the tournament.