ASU hockey commit Josh Doan eager to carry on family’s legacy in the desert
TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- The family watched from the ice as the banner was raised to the rafters.
It was a well-deserved end to Shane Doan’s playing career. Over twenty seasons in the Valley, he became “Captain Coyote” and the face of hockey in the state of Arizona.
But last February’s number retirement ceremony would not be the end of the Doan family’s impact on Arizona ice.
Standing with Shane that night was his son Josh, a talented young player in his own right who was already making a name for himself within the state’s hockey circles.
Almost four months to the day after his dad’s ceremony, Josh made a decision that would both carve out his own path while also helping to continue the family legacy in Arizona.
* * *
He wanted to be just like him.
No, not because he was an NHL All-Star, but because he was something even better.
“I began loving (hockey) because I watched him play,” said Josh Doan of his father Shane. “I think I loved it before I even knew that he was who he was. His influence pushed me to go harder in it, because I wanted to be like him.”
Growing up in a hockey family, it may have seemed like Josh was destined for the game, but that wasn’t the case. Shane didn’t want to force Josh into following in his footsteps. Rather, he simply wanted his son to find some he liked to do, whatever it may be.
“I wanted him to be passionate about something,” Shane said. “I didn’t care what it is, but the fact that it was hockey was amazing, and I loved it.”
Like father, like son, after all.
As a toddler, Josh would often run around with a mini-hockey stick in hand. He first got on the ice with learn-to-skate sessions before starting to play hockey in the Jr. Coyotes program.
When Josh was on the ice, it was hard to get him off of it. Whether it was a practice or a game, he embraced every second. That love of the game became one of his defining traits, and it helped take away any pressure he may have felt being the son of an NHL star.
“Just the fact that I’ve loved the game so much is more of what’s taken the pressure away,” Josh said. “It was not a really big factor in Arizona, but when we’d go travel to Canada, all the people would come up to him and you’d realize how big of a deal he was.”
In those early years, Shane made sure to keep things grounded. He was unwavering in his support of Josh, and to Josh’s teammates, Shane eventually went from “idol” to “hockey dad” in their eyes.
Josh grew up on the ice. He made friends and learned valuable life lessons, much to Shane’s delight. Like his dad, Josh developed into a team leader and proudly wore the captain’s “C” on his No. 19 sweater. He also developed into a high-scoring forward who earned acclaim with his play.
“I like to think of myself as more of a playmaker,” said Josh. “I try my best to create offense for my teammates. A player that I like to think that I play like is Niklas Bäckström because he’s always ready to set guys up. I’m not the biggest player, so I have to find my way around a rink, and I have to keep my head up and play smart.”
That mental side of his game is what has caught his dad’s attention most to this point, especially as the 5-foot-11, 161-pounder continues to develop physically.
“His hockey IQ is what makes him capable of playing at the next level,” said Shane. “He has the ability to make plays. He moves the puck well. The way that he’s growing right now is something that is really exciting to see where he finishes, because he’s physically probably been a little bit behind on the overall spectrum, but he’s closing the gap a lot over the last six months to a year. I think when his physical side matches where his mental side is, he’s going to have an opportunity to play a lot of hockey.”
As he made his way through his teens, Josh continued to have success and embraced the new challenges that came with it. Seeing him overcome those hurdles was when Shane knew that his son could be playing hockey for a long time.
“Along the way, his passion seemed to grow and get more intense,” said Shane. “There were a few times you knew there’d be some hard decisions he had to make, and he seemed to always choose to keep pushing and keep going with hockey. That was when it became most clear to me that he had a chance to play at the collegiate level and an opportunity to get an education through hockey.”
It was at that point where their paths diverged. Shane’s road to the NHL included a few years in the major junior ranks, while Josh felt his next stop would be at the NCAA level.
“I’m taking a different path,” Josh said, “but at the same time, I’m trying to reach the same endgame.”
* * *
The dream finally became a reality.
In late 2014, it was announced that Arizona State, after a dominant run at the ACHA club level, was making the transition up to NCAA Division I status. It was a major move not just for the university, but for the sport of hockey in Arizona.
ASU Athletic Director Ray Anderson made the wise decision to retain head coach Greg Powers as the program made the move up. Powers’ first three seasons were challenging, but the Sun Devils showed increasing signs of becoming the powerhouse many felt they could become. The breakthrough came last season, when ASU made their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Early last season, ASU reached out to start a dialogue with Josh. Those recruiting efforts intensified near the end of the year, and they left Josh with a very favorable impression of Powers and the program he was building.
“I think he’s awesome,” Josh said. “What he’s done for this program is unbelievable. The person he is, the trust and honesty he shows with his recruits and players. I believe with him, this team can go very far.”
As their relationship grew, Powers sold Josh on several aspects of what becoming a Sun Devil would mean.
First, even with last year’s success, the program is still very young. That affords the current players and those in the next few classes an opportunity to build a strong foundation for the future of Sun Devil Hockey.
“Whatever you do is going to be the standard,” Josh said. “Everything we do will be among the first done at the program. You get to be the tradition for the school. For years to come, everyone looks at what you did and what your team did.”
It was also clear that going to Arizona State would put Josh at a hockey hotspot. With their success and trajectory, the Sun Devils had become the talk of the college hockey world.
“It’s insane. You go to tournaments, and everyone talks about ASU now,” Josh said. “It’s become such a big deal because you get to play hockey for a great school, and you get to be in Arizona. As much as the program is unbelievable, you also get to live in Arizona for college instead of Michigan or Minnesota in the freezing cold.
Turns out, being able to go to class wearing shorts and sandals in the middle of winter is a nice recruiting edge.
“The growth they’ve had in such a short time, all these kids want to go there now,” said Josh. “Kids from Minnesota, North Dakota, Michigan, and even Canada want to go there, and the chance to be able to go there from Arizona is so big.”
As ASU became a more viable option for his son, Shane felt increasingly comfortable with the idea.
During his career, he had gotten to know may of ASU’s assistant coaches. He was also impressed by the success, not only of the hockey program, but by Sun Devil athletics as a whole.
“You look at what ASU has done with their sports department the last three or four years,” Shane said. “The whole side of their sports are trending in the right direction, and that’s exciting to be a part of.”
But most of all, he felt his son would be in good hands under Coach Powers.
“He’s a guy that cares about the kids,” Shane said. “He cares about them as young men. I love hockey, and hockey has been so good to me. But the type of men they become is way more important, and I think that’s very important to Greg. That’s something that resonated with out family and with Josh.”
But ultimately, it was Josh’s decision. After talking with his family, Josh announced his decision on June 21.
He was going to be a Sun Devil.
“The biggest thing is you get a chance to play in front of your family at a high level of hockey,” Josh said. “The program they run is so special. It made the most sense for me to stay home, play for the organization they have, and get to play in front of my family and friends.”
The local pipeline was being built.
“Being from Arizona, it seemed to all line up for him as somebody that has played in the Valley and for the Jr. Coyotes and wanted to be a part of that,” Shane said.
Another interesting aspect of Josh’s commitment is that it was the latest in a line of moves that positions ASU as the home for the sons of former NHL stars.
Austin Lemeiux, son of Hall of Famer Mario, is already on the roster as a rising sophomore. Carson Briere (son of former Coyote and two-time All-Star Daniel) and Jackson Niedermayer (son of Hall of Famer Scott) are among ASU’s other verbal commitments.
“It’s cool. My dad played with most of those guys,” Josh said. “I’ve met a couple of them growing up. Carson Briere was one of the newer ones coming at the end of the year when I was making my decision. It’s really cool because it’s making a legacy of guys. It’s actually quite funny that all these guys’ kids are ending up in Arizona, which I’m sure wasn’t the plan at the beginning, but now that you have it, it’s something that’s exciting for fans and for the players.”
It’s also a ringing endorsement of the program from four of the best players in recent NHL history.
“It says a lot about what we’re doing and how we coach our guys,” Powers said. “We let them play. That’s what pros like. They like opportunities for their children to go in, be themselves, and play. Not go to a place and a staff that’s turning them into robots. We want our guys to be creative, to play, and have fun. That’s the premise we use when we recruit, and I think it resonates well with ex-pros. The proof’s in the pudding.”
Josh plans to play for the Chicago Steel of the USHL before beginning his Sun Devil career in 2021. Even though his career may be a couple years away, Josh is already setting some lofty goals.
“To be known as someone who was on that team and a local kid would be so cool,” Josh said. “Even better, you’d be known as a local kid who won with the team and helped them get to the win. It draws pretty good appeal, considering that not too many kids get the chance to play for their hometown team and bring them their first national title.”
* * *
“In the beginning, there wasn’t any rinks, and it wasn’t really talked about.”
When the Winnipeg Jets and their then second-year forward Shane Doan moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes, hockey was—at best—a niche sport in the Valley.
The Phoenix Roadrunners had been a presence in various minor leagues. College hockey? Well, Arizona State University had a club-level team, with kid from Indiana named Greg Powers between the pipes.
The idea of an elite homegrown hockey star? Nah.
A lot has changed since 1996.
As the Coyotes established themselves, hockey took hold in the desert. New ice rinks were built, and kids of all ages were introduced to the game and laced up the skates. As the quality of play improved, each new class built upon the accomplishments of the one before. It wasn’t too long before Arizona was producing its share of excellent players, providing kids with examples to follow.
Most prominently, Auston Matthews went from Scottsdale star to the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft to one of the league’s top players. Phoenix native Johnny Walker returned to play for ASU and was among the NCAA’s goal-scoring leaders this past season.
That duo’s success has proven to today’s youth players that you can play your hockey in the desert and make it to the next levels of the game.
“The credibility for the state and for Arizona minor hockey to have kids have success in the state is important,” said Shane. “The reason that Josh feels confident as a player is because of what those guys have done. The group of boys that are coming up in Arizona minor hockey are seeing that, and Josh is a byproduct of what those guys have done.”
It will soon be time for the next wave to make their mark. With his path to a prominent NCAA program set, Josh is aiming to become the same type of example for young local players that he had with Matthews and Walker.
“The group I’ve played with, we set a standard that college hockey is possible to make it out of Arizona, or stay in the state for college hockey or the next level,” Josh said. “Where kids are leaving Arizona to go play somewhere else at a young age, I chose to stay in Arizona, and it turned out for the best for me and my family. I ended up with a commitment to a college at the Division I level through the process of Arizona hockey. Being able to show that you don’t have to leave, you can stay home for youth hockey in Arizona and still get a Division I commitment is huge for the next generation coming up.”
What better example for a young Arizona hockey player to follow than that of a Doan.
“The young guys that are having success now, that have grown up playing from Arizona, are really giving credibility to the state,” Shane said. “Josh wants to be able to continue that. He loves Arizona. He’s excited to have the opportunity to stay home and play in Arizona. He wants to help minor hockey grow. He loves that part of the sport and everything it provides people that play it.”
Like his father, Josh could become an influential ambassador for the sport in Arizona.
“He wants to help the next generation feel the same way and to be able to see what he got to see,” Shane said. “That’s pretty special and doesn’t happen too often.”
A playmaker. A captain. A hometown hero in the making.
And soon, Josh Doan will be a Sun Devil.
“To wear the pitchfork on your jersey and represent the school in front of your friends and family is going to be something.”
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