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Shane Doan(notes) is an original member of the Phoenix Coyotes. His rookie season found him playing during the final year of the Winnipeg Jets. One year later, he was playing in sunny Arizona.

In his six of his first seven seasons, Doan was playing playoff hockey. Since 2002, the Coyotes have not placed better than fourth in the Pacific Division. Now, with 12 games to go in their season, Phoenix is sitting pretty in the Western Conference and is close to clinching a playoff spot. Also, with the post-Olympic struggles of the San Jose Sharks, the Coyotes are five points away from the top spot in the West.

After the drama of last summer with Jim Balsillie, what story in the NHL could top what the Coyotes have done this season?

We spoke with the 33-year old forward about the team's success this year; Phoenix's activity at the trade deadline; Johnny Cash's visit to his family's ranch when he was younger; which teammates he would use if he were casting an episode of "Seinfeld"; and his feelings on the current state of controversial hits in the NHL. Enjoy.

Q. With guys like you, Robert Lang(notes), Adrian Aucoin(notes) and Ed Jovanovski(notes) among a few others as the older veterans on the team, you're outnumbered by guys born in the 1980's. Are the older guys learning as much from the kids as they are from the vets?

DOAN: We're having a lot of fun. We're enjoying the group. I think it's a great mix. We have a lot of fun joking and laughing with some of the younger guys and with our team. We have so many guys that we count on and that's what I think has made this a lot of fun. You count on everybody every single night. The older guys count on the younger guys and the younger guys count on the older guys and that makes it much more enjoyable.

Considering the uncertainty with ownership, was the locker room surprised by the amount of activity at the trade deadline?

They made sure to keep our budget pretty low and we had a little wiggle room to add a couple of guys. We heard there might be a chance of that and we were excited about the fact that we might be buyers at the trade deadline and not sellers -- it's been a while since that's happened.

Two of the guys brought in at the trade deadline, Wojtek Wolski(notes) and Lee Stempniak(notes), have played well since joining the team. Is there something in the water down there that players show up in Phoenix and contribute right away?

You know, Lee's one of those guys in the League that everyone knows what he's capable of. He said he didn't have the success that he wanted to in Toronto, but so far here, it's been great. We're riding him as far as we can and that's the thing with our team; we don't have any high-end superstars, but we've got a lot of guys that can play the game and we count on everybody. And Lee's going, so we're relying on him and counting on him.

If he happens to cool off, then someone like Matthew Lombardi(notes) will step up and we'll ride him and that's the thing that's been happening with us all year. Lombo was unbelievably hot in February and other guys were hot in January and we just keep going.

Considering the season he was having, how does the loss of Scottie Upshall(notes) affect the team going forward?

It's huge. Uppy provides so much energy. He's fun in the room and it was a big hole for us and we obviously miss him a lot and if we could add somebody like him to our lineup it'd be huge. Hopefully we can go long enough that he gets a chance to come back.

In the coming weeks, there's going to be a lot more East Coast eyes on your games as we head towards the playoffs. What can you say to those doubters about Phoenix as a hockey market?

It's not near as dire a situation as many people think. When we do win, people come out and this year, a lot of people have shown up. It's just one of those things. We've been struggling for a long time and it hasn't been a lot of fun to be a Phoenix Coyotes fan. But the fans will show up and they will come if we were to win and they're doing that right now.

Assuming the Coyotes stay put, which region do you think could better support an NHL franchise: Winnipeg or Southern Ontario?

I sure appreciate what the fans in Winnipeg were and have been for the NHL and continue to be. But, obviously, you recognize Southern Ontario and Toronto with the success the Leafs have had, it's pretty incredible. But, right now I think the Phoenix Coyotes should stay where they're at and try to win here.

You're one of the few athletes that's spent your entire career with the same franchise. In your case, what is it about Phoenix that's made you not think twice about leaving?

The organization has given me the chance to play in the NHL, which was my dream and they had opportunities to move me, so they've chosen to keep me. It goes both ways and I'm incredibly grateful for that opportunity and for the fact that they would consider keeping me for as long as they have.

Your family has a history in being involved in rodeo. How did you end up choosing hockey over being a cowboy?

I wasn't tough enough. Pretty simple.

Cowboys are a different breed and a lot tougher than I am. It's one of those things that I love it. I've got a bunch of horses that I ride and do a little bit of work with the cattle. I've done that while growing up and in my family everyone does it, so you're kind of around it through osmosis. I also recognize that my dad played hockey and on my mom's side they're all hockey players, so it was kind of an easy fit.

I heard a story about Johnny Cash staying at your family ranch when you were younger. How did that chance encounter come about?

We run a ranch for kids that can hold about 250 people. He was playing at Northlands in Edmonton and was driving down to Calgary and wanted a place that no one would be able to find him. We definitely had that in the middle of nowhere. His sister had been out to the ranch with her kids and they loved it. She told them they should try it and they came out and spent four days there and I got to take him riding and two of the days we were moving cattle.

So in exchange for showing them how to move cattle did he give you any guitar lessons?

[Laughs] No, I wish he would have. I'm working on it now trying to figure out how to play. I don't know the slightest thing about music, but every pro athlete wants to be a musician, so it's kind of cool. 

I read on the Coyotes' site that your favorite TV show is "Seinfeld". Do you find yourself quoting the show in the locker room?

[Laughs] Our PR guys, Sergey [Kocharov] and Rob [Crean], said they're going to write a movie about it because everyday there could be a different episode.

What's your favorite episode?

When Kramer thinks he's buying a chicken and it's a rooster and they're training the rooster to be Little Jerry. That's a great one.

If you were casting Seinfeld using teammates, who would be Jerry, George and Kramer?

[Laughs] Kramer is without a doubt Ilya Bryzgalov(notes). Not even close, definitely him. He's definitely out there a little bit. For George, probably will have to go with Matthew Lombardi. For Jerry ... Keith Yandle's(notes) funny, but he's a Boston boy so he doesn't like anything about Seinfeld, so we might have to go with Yans.

Nobody for Newman?

I was thinking of Newman, but I'm not sure who we'd go with. That's a tough one. But I guess the polar opposite of Newman would be Jerry. You know what, Vernon Fiddler(notes) should be George because he and Yans do everything together.

You mentioned that Bryzgalov was kind of out there. Does he have any weird pre-game rituals or superstitions?

Game day you can't talk to him pretty much. He's just quiet; unless he's not playing then you can't get him to stop talking. But, our goaltending has been so incredible this year he's got to start being talked about for some major awards if he keeps going the way he's been going.

With your schedule, do you get to see a lot of East coast games, specifically, since we're talking about goaltenders, Ryan Miller(notes) and the Buffalo Sabres?

Yeah, those would be my two picks and obviously they can make a huge argument for him too. They've been both phenomenal. We got to play against Miller and Buffalo and they gave it to us both times, but Bryzzy's been absolutely lights out for us and I think it'd be hard to find anyone more important to their team than him.

Did you and your family know that your cousin (3-time Olympic gold medal speed skater Catriona Le May Doan) would be part of the Opening Ceremony or did she have to keep it hush hush?

They kept all of that pretty quiet. I heard from a couple of people that they thought she would, but she had heard there might be a few of them so you didn't know what they were going to do.

Was it difficult to watch Team Canada throughout the tournament not having made the final cut?

It's one of those things that everyone Canadian would love to be on that team and it was a pretty special moment for Hockey Canada.

As someone who's represented your country on numerous occasions including the 2006 Olympics, how would you rank the three greatest Canadian international goals? Paul Henderson in the 1972 Summit Series, Mario Lemieux at the 1987 Canada Cup and Sidney Crosby's(notes) at the recent Olympics?

I think the goal is Henderson's, just because it was the '72 Summit Series and there was so much going on with the Cold War and there was so much going in North America with the Soviets and we didn't really know much about each other at the time. You look at the goal that Crosby scored, it's the Olympics at home, so you probably have to put that there and the goal that Mario scored, with Mario and Wayne being involved, was pretty special and pretty unique.

Finally, the general managers just proposed a rule for blindside headshots beginning next season? Is it enough to help curb incidents?

I think our sport's fine. I understand that their job is to protect the players and they want to make players safe and do the best they can, but I think our sport's phenomenal. I don't want to anyone to change it too much and I really think they're trying their best to make it better. The sport is always going to be physical and I certainly understand there's going to be chances you're going to get hit hard and going to get hit in the head hard at times. I don't think anyone ever goes out there to injure anyone or hurt their head, but at the same time those hits do happen and if it's an illegal blow to the head with an elbow or a stick or something, I'm all about disciplining them.

But at the same time, they're trying to do what's right. It's a physical sport and that's what makes it great and that's why people like to watch it as well, I don't care what anyone says, it is. That's what makes our sport fun and it's an emotional game and you're going to always have to try to watch it, but there's not a lot you can do about guys running into each other when everyone can move as fast as they can now and they're as big as they are.

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