A little bit of perspective is in order as opening night of the NHL season, originally set for Thursday, will feature darkened arenas across North America. That perspective comes from one of pro hockey's most popular players; a man who nearly called it quits over the summer because of something every parent fears.
On July 6, Doan was with his wife in Edmonton to watch his son's hockey tournament when he got a call. The couple's 7-year-old daughter, Karys, had been bitten in the face by a dog on her grandparents' farm. She would need surgery. Shane and his wife, Andrea, got in the car and drove across Alberta in terror.
"I would never in a million years want any dad to have to go through that," Doan told Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Daily Republic.
Karys required bone reconstruction and 150 stitches to her face. She was in the hospital for six days.
According to McLellan's report, Doan thought of retiring.
"This changed everything for me," he said.
So while the rest of the hockey world waited on Doan to decide where he wanted to play in the winter, Doan waited on Karys to heal. His job didn't seem all that important anymore. He's known as perhaps the most loyal NHL star, sticking with the same franchise for his entire career. But loyalty to a team or a town is nothing like a parent's bond with a child. Karys would need him and so would his other three children.
After a few weeks, Karys started to play and swim again. She picked up her cheerleading where it left off. She turned 8. And Doan signed a four-year, $21.2 million deal with Phoenix, still a Coyote for life. Karys will stay right where she is.
"You realize how thankful and blessed you are for what you have in your life," Andrea Doan told McLellan, "and just carry on."
There will be no hockey Thursday or at any time this weekend. The union and the owners will continue to view the sport in terms of revenue, profits and commodities. But Doan's scary summer is a reminder that although NHL players are the best in the world, the sport's greatest commodity is the quality of the people involved in it. That's not to say other athletes are corrupt or that hockey players are pristine. But anyone who's been around hockey realizes it's the people that keep the game strong as much as the talent.
Hopefully, before too long, we get those people back. For now, let's remember that both in hockey and in life, what we have is so much more than what we've lost.
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