WINNIPEG – Coyotes captain Shane Doan has a lot of history with the city of Winnipeg.
The last first-round pick of the original Jets, Doan was drafted seventh overall in the 1995 NHL draft. When the team moved to Arizona at the end of that season, so did he.
“He has a soft spot for Winnipeg, his career started here,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said Thursday before the Coyotes-Jets game—their first regular season meeting since 1996.
“But he’s come down and he’s put a lot of time and effort into trying to make our organization a viable organization.”
Now 35, Doan was a fresh-faced kid with the Memorial Cup-winning Kamloops Blazers when he was drafted by the Jets.
But when the Coyotes play Winnipeg, Tippett knows where Doan’s loyalties lie.
“I’m sure he’ll have some emotion . . . (but) once the puck drops he’ll be like everybody else,” said Tippett.
Doan, meanwhile, knows who Jets fans cheer for.
“I’m sure that anyone that comes in here isn’t going to be welcomed too much and I’m sure we’re no different,” said Doan.
Still a return to Winnipeg means something to Doan and the other Coyotes.
“Coming back here for the first time is something that you’ll definitely remember,” said Doan.
The new version of the Jets defeated the Coyotes on Thursday, as Ondrej Pavelec made 33 saves in a 1-0 victory. Afterwards the sellout crowd gave the Jets a standing ovation, and the players responded by raising their sticks to salute their fans.
Doan downplayed any suggestion he slagged his former home when there was talk it might be Phoenix, not the Atlanta Thrashers, which would move to Winnipeg.
“I never once said a single disparaging word about Winnipeg,” said Doan. “I simply stated that the connection that I had with Phoenix was because I’d been there for 15 years, the same thing as I would have had if I’d been with Winnipeg for 15 years and someone told me I had to leave.”
At the same time, the continued uncertainty over the future of the Coyotes and the enthusiastic welcome Winnipeg has accorded the new Jets, hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“You get excited about watching people get emotional about their team,” said Doan.
“You appreciate it and obviously you’re envious about the way the situation happened so quickly for Atlanta and its over and done with and they got settled with a great ownership and great management.”
He said the Coyotes try not to talk about their future but would like a resolution sooner rather than later.
“You do grow callous to it . . . I want to stay there,” said Doan. “That’s where my family has been their whole life, that’s where everybody wants to stay but you really have no say in it.”
Tippett said the situation is different now then last season.
A prospective new owner, apparently without a lot of cash, got caught in a struggle with a taxpayer advocacy group fighting plans to use public money in the deal.
“The NHL has done a good job of making sure that whatever is happening is happening behind closed doors and that’s the way we like it,” Tippett said.
“We recognize we’re still in the same situation but all we can do is go out and play well and that’s what our group’s focused on.”