Battered by politicians back home over a disputed on-ice remark in 2005, the Canadian captain sparked Canada en route to a 6-3 win over Belarus at the IIHF World Hockey Championship. Doan scored three goals in a span of six minutes 25 seconds as Canada took control of the game in the second period.
Doan was understandably pleased after a performance that will make headlines of a different kind.
“You definitely want to prove that you deserve to be here and that you want to be here and that you’re capable of doing a good job,” said Doan.
His first goal was short-handed, the second on a power play and the third came at even strength. Doan was contributing in every way.
He now leads Canada with four goals and has impressed his teammates.
“I think it’s unbelievable,” said forward Jonathan Toews. “He’s just one of those guys that comes through when there’s pressure and there’s criticism and stuff like that.
“I think today he proved that he’s the real leader in our locker-room and showed everybody what people on the outside can’t really see.”
The scandal that has kept Doan in the news over the past few days has also received some attention in other countries, which has made the Canadian captain a much sought-after interview at the world championship.
Doan has remained calm while repeatedly answering questions about the infamous remark about French-Canadians he says he never made. There have been no outward signs of frustration or concern.
“You only have to worry about something if you’re guilty,” said Canadian coach Andy Murray. “Why should he worry about some politician?”
Against the backdrop of the Doan controversy, Canada has remained perfect at the world championship by doing enough to beat each of its opponents.
The Canadians trailed 1-0 against Belarus after a first period in which they took six penalties. Doan’s first goal came 25 seconds into the second period before he gave Canada the lead for good less than three minutes later.
Those goals came at an important time.
“It was a game we needed to win,” said Doan. “They were feeling pretty good about themselves after the first period and they had a little bit of life.”
He completed the hat trick at 9:13 of the second period by poking a loose puck past Belarus goalie Stepan Goryachevskikh.
Toews, Mike Cammalleri and Matthew Lombardi also scored for Canada (4-0) while Aleksei Ugarov, Aleksandr Ryadinsky and Dmitry Meleshko replied for Belarus (1-3).
Canada has clinched a spot in the quarter-finals and will finish the qualifying round with games Sunday against the Czech Republic and Monday against the U.S.
Once those are over, they’ll have to win three in a row to come home with a gold medal. The team is still a work in progress as it approaches the most important part of the tournament.
“We still have things to learn,” said Murray.
The coach established the theme of ‘Dig in for Canada’ before the tournament and had T-shirts with that slogan made for the team.
In hindsight, it seems quite prophetic.
The Canadians have trailed in each of their four games before ‘digging in’ and coming up with victories. The Doan saga has also had an impact.
“Any sort of distraction that you face that is contradictory towards your goal of winning the gold medal is adversity,” said Cammalleri. “There’s different ways to deal with it.”
In that regard, Doan has truly been the team’s leader.
He admitted after Friday’s game that the support he’s received from Canadians has been “overwhelming” during the scandal. Phone calls, text messages and e-mails have flooded in and over 20,000 people have signed an online petition telling the government to mind its own business.
It’s given Doan more reasons to reflect on the Canadian crest he wears on his jersey and the more than 30 million people he’s representing at the world championship.
“You’re so proud as a Canadian to represent your country,” he said. “You want to represent everybody across the country. When you get here and something like this comes up, it makes it tough, you’re wondering about it.
“Everything that’s happened in the last little bit is overwhelming, it truly is. That’s why you had the feelings (about the country) in the first place.”
His teammates and the Hockey Canada staff have been his biggest backers.
“We never doubted him for a second,” said Toews.
Added forward Rick Nash: “He’s a true captain.”
That much was fairly evident to those in the Khodynka Arena when Doan took control of the game Friday. None of his goals was particularly brilliant, but that will not take away from how they’ll be remembered.
“It’s a nice way for him to respond to some media attention back home,” said Cammalleri. “It just shows you the level of professionalism he shows as a hockey player by shelving everything that’s going on and leading us by example.”