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“We talking about practice. Practice. Not a game, practice.” This from Allen Iverson when asked during a press conference why he was being disciplined for being late to a practice. It never occurred to him that maybe he should be on-time, maybe even be the leader of his team. Iverson was the best player on his team, but no one mistook him for a leader.

“You pay me to practice. I give you the games for free.” Prime Time Deion Sanders talking about his thoughts on practice. He was talented and a game changer, but by the time he was in the NFL, he didn’t think that practice was important to overall success on the field.

Then you have Shane Doan. Captain of the Coyotes. Last member in the NHL from when the Winnipeg Jets were there the first time. Heart and Soul of the team. Shane is one of the nicest guys off the ice, gives endlessly to the community. Is a first class individual. And one of the hardest workers on the ice.

During the optional workout at the Ice Den in Scottsdale run by Athletes Resources, several of the current Coyotes were joined by players from around the NHL and the minors. Veterans like Ray Whitney and Rusty Klesla skated side by side with Mikkel Boedker. It was the fifth day of the camp, and the players knew the drills. First came the warm-up skate and then sprint on the whistle. The players were then split into two groups and formed at opposite ends of the ice. Cones were set out near the blue lines and center ice. Players passed to each other, goal line to blue line. Passes were crisp and on the tape. Defensemen were tasked with breaking up a two-on-one, and then a three on one. Forwards were on the attack. The D-men knew their positioning and worked on all aspects of their game. Forwards just wanted to put it past the goalies. It was a pass, deke and toe-drag workshop,

After about thirty minutes, whistles were blown by the Athletes Resource staff. Players took a knee around the white board stuck to the glass. Forwards then went to the south end, d-men to the north. Starting at the goal line, off they went on the whistle. Toward the opposite blue line. D-men did a stop and immediately changed from forward to backwards. Forwards raced to the blue line and then did a sharp turn back toward the goal line. The D-men skated in unison and looked as one. It was different with the forwards. There was a players in front. It was Captain Coyote Shane Doan. By the time the forwards got to center ice, Shane was in the lead. He points his stick toward the bench. All turned toward the bench and raced back. No one was catching Shane. Next time, he pointed toward the stands. All turned toward the stands. Shane still in the lead.

Here you have the living embodiment of what a being a captain means. Going to an arena for a week of optional workouts when you are a 15 year veteran. The 1000 game mark is in your rear view mirror and you are guaranteed to have your jersey on the wall of fame. It is 114 degrees outside and the pool is calling. Your kids are in school, you could have some of the few remaining quiet days before the season starts to yourself and your wife. Instead, you are leading the drill. Pushing yourself harder than kids 10 years younger are able to. Doing drills you’ve done ten thousand times before you turned 18 years old, but here you are. Leading. Because that is what you are. Actions speak louder than words.

Shane is in a contract year. The GM Don Maloney wants to lock up Shane for the rest of his career in Coyote Red. There are two bidders in negotiations to buy the team and keep them in Glendale. You open up your checkbook and ask him to write in what he wants. The team, and more importantly the fans, need to know our Captain is here.

This is my first p0st for Howlin’ Hockey. I want to thank Frank for getting me approved. I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and didn’t want to let it go. It was too good. Shane deserves the respect and appreciation.