Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The End of an Era

My head is reeling, struggling to process this wholly unexpected turn of events. I never thought I would read the headlines I've been reading over the last 24 hours. Even during the times that I most feared that Shane Doan's time in the Valley of the Sun would come to an end, I never imagined that it would happen like this. I never thought it could happen like this. 

On Monday morning, Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway announced that the team would not be renewing the contract of longtime Captain Shane Doan, who is the last player remaining from the relocation of the Winnipeg Jets to the Valley in 1996. The move signaled the end of the Shane Doan era...and the beginning of the Andrew Barroway era.  

Andrew Barroway bought a 51% stake in the then Phoenix Coyotes in December of 2014. He remained largely a silent partner, leaving operational control of the team to minority owner and CEO Anthony LeBlanc. Barroway managed a hedge fund in Philadelphia, so he seemed content to leave the day-to-day operations up to LeBlanc.  

Having evidently become dissatisfied with the direction of the team, he struck a deal last week to buy out the other partners and become the sole owner of the team. With the buyout, LeBlanc and President of Hockey Operations Gary Drummond (half of the Coyotes' management team along with General Manager John Chayka and Head Coach and Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Dave Tippett) stepped down from their posts.  

In the absence of a CEO for the Coyotes, pending a search for LeBlanc's replacement, Barroway took it upon himself to announce the team's decision to part ways with Doan. I think this is why the move struck such a sour note with much of the team's fan base. The way it was announced, without any kind of press conference or any apparent involvement of Chayka or Tippett, made it seem like this decision was Barroway's alone. If it was a hockey decision, why not involve Chayka and TippettTo have such a decision made by a non-hockey person who isn't local and couldn't possibly understand the impact that Doan had on this team and this community seemed short-sighted and disrespectful. 

Additionally, many Coyotes fans feel that at the very least there should have been a front office position offered at the time he was let go, which it appears was not the case. There are reports that such a position was offered, but apparently not until after the backlash had begun. For many it reeked of cynical damage control.

Most of us feel that Doan should have been allowed to decide for himself whether he would return or retire, especially since team management had indicated that that would be the case. As recently as last month Chayka seemed to indicate that the team was awaiting Doan's decision as to whether or not he would decide to return for another season. The implication was that there was a spot for him on the team, should he decide to accept it.  

Many Coyotes fans believe that Doan has earned that much. For twenty years he has been the face of the franchise. He has demonstrated greater loyalty to the Coyotes than anybody else could have...perhaps more than they deserved. For twenty years, there has not been one bad word uttered about him. And in that time he has never uttered a single bad word about the team. Even when things were at their worst, he would simply smile and assure us that everything would be all right. He would appear on TV and radio, in hospitals and schools, anywhere he was asked to go. He could have jumped ship on numerous occasions, and nobody would have blamed him. But he chose to stay. He chose to ride out the storm along with the rest of us. And we love him for that. That makes this decision and the way it was handled that much harder to take. 

Fans had just had their hopes raised last week, when Doan's agent, Terry Bross, announced that Doan was "leaning towards playing" again this season. To then have the rug yanked out from under us seemed unfathomably cruel. As if we, as fans, hadn't been through enough emotional turmoil over the last twenty years, this seemed like a dagger to the heart.  

I'm not exactly sure what would have made this news palatable. But I'm quite sure that Barroway missed the mark. The way it all came about seems like a slap in the face.  

Shane Doan deserved better

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