The Arizona Coyotes have retired only one player number in the Winnipeg/Phoenix/Arizona franchise history. Shane Doan’s number 19 was retired by the team on February 24, 2019 against the (you guessed it) Winnipeg Jets. This was the most obvious decision in Arizona sports as Doan was the greatest to ever play for the Coyotes franchise.
He is an icon in the Valley and has done more to grow the sport of hockey in the state of Arizona than any other person on the planet. He is the reason that through each tumultuous season, arena uncertainty, and front office drama, that the team is still here.
Ask Auston Matthews who is favorite player was growing up.
If you look at the names that line the upper bowl at a Coyotes home game, you see some pretty amazing and iconic players. A literal stroll down memory lane.
Former Coyotes greats Keith Tkachuk (7), Jeremy Roenick (97) and Teppo Numminen (27), as well as former Jets players Bobby Hull (9), Thomas Steen (25) and Dale Hawerchuk (10), have all been honored by the franchise and placed into the Coyotes Ring of Honor.
That is an impressive list.
Many old school Coyotes fans would argue that Roenick (or JR or Hollywood) was the most popular player in early franchise history. All Coyotes fans would agree that no player in Coyotes history was more dominant on the ice than original Coyotes captain, Keith Tkachuk.
Tkachuk played with the Winnipeg/Phoenix organization for 10 seasons, scoring 323 goals, 300 assists, 623 points, with 1508 penalty minutes in 640 games. He was the last of a dying breed, the true power forward. Tkachuk could score at will, was physical, and mean as hell. Nobody wanted to mess with him.
He was everything that this team needed from a captain and star player to kick start the relocation.
His play was essential in drawing fans to games, and making this team competitive from the start.
His first season (96-97) in the desert he led the NHL in goals with 52, and scored 86 points, with 228 penalty minutes, in 81 games. His penalty minutes were good for 10th in the league. The Maurice Richard Trophy, given to the player who scores the most goals in a season, was not an actual award until the 1999 season.
Had it been around during the 1996-97 season, Tkachuk would have won the award, beating out former Winnipeg Jet Teemu Selanne by 1 goal.
Tkachuk is the best goal scorer that this team has ever had. He scored 52, 40, 36, 22, and 26 goals in each of his respective seasons in Arizona. No player in Coyotes history has had that level of success or that type of consistency.
Not even Doan.
Tkachuk played a total of five years in Phoenix, putting the team on the map and establishing hockey in the desert. If Doan was the player most important to this franchise and the key piece in keeping this team moving forward/sticking around, Tkachuk was the reason fans came to games early on.
Since Tkachuk, three players have worn number 7 for the Coyotes, Deron Quint (2003), Ivan Novoseltsev (2004), and Mike Leclerc (2006). Tkachuk was inducted into the Coyotes Ring of Honor on December 23, 2011.
He was the most exciting player that the Coyotes have ever had, and one of the greatest American hockey players ever.
As the team ushers in the next phase of the rebuild, enters its third arena they call home, and takes the next steps forward (in the right direction), the correct thing to do is add the number 7 into the rafters, next to Doan, and retire the number as it should be. Tkachuk is synonymous with Coyotes hockey and the Kachina logo. Nobody other than Matthew or Brady Tkachuk should ever wear that number on a Coyotes sweater, again.
Honor him and the number 7.