CHRISTIAN SPORTS SPOTLIGHT: Shane Doan
SHANE DOAN is stickhandling his way through the National Hockey League (NHL) with grace, faith and a firm belief in family.
In the celebrity world of the NHL, players can easily get caught up in any number of off-ice vices and temptations. But Doan, the 30-year-old captain of the Phoenix Coyotes, decided early on that he would do things God's way and not chase after the "fleeting pleasures of sin" (Hebrews 11:25).
Genesis of a hockey star
Shane grew up in an environment of wholesome and healthy activity. His parents own and operate Circle Square Ranch, a Christian camp for kids of all ages, in Halkirk, Alta. The camp offers horseback riding, swimming and archery.
"Our ranch hands love the Lord and know how to have fun, and Shane saw that," says his father, Bernie. "Shane took a stand at an early age, deciding not to get into drinking or harmful activities. He had great role models at the ranch and never saw Christianity as boring."
The young men and women he met there may have played a part, but Shane's greatest role model was his father. "My dad is one of the godliest men I've ever met," says Shane. "I grew up in the best family you could possibly have."
Shane's dad willingly shares his parenting secret, which is really no secret: It's the Bible. "My wife, Bernice, and I had a book of special Bible verses, which we encouraged our kids to memorize," he says. "We would go over them together at suppertime. One verse in particular that we constantly brought to Shane's attention was: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters" (Colossians 3:23).
Bernie points out that family meals provided the perfect opportunity to share what mattered to the members of the Doan family. "That sharing time around the supper table is being destroyed today because of the busyness of our society," he says. "Even during our hectic camp seasons of July and August at the ranch, we would eat in the dining hall with the campers, but my family would sit at our own table."
Another opportunity for sharing came the year Shane was 15 and playing AA hockey with 16- to 18-year-olds. The arena for that level of play was an hour's drive from Halkirk. Having to travel so far for every practice and every game resulted in plenty of father-and-son time.
"That was Shane's last year at home," Bernie says. "He and I got a lot of talking in while driving. He matured and improved mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. When Shane was given the opportunity to move to Kamloops, B.C., with the WHL (Western Hockey League) in 1992, Bernie says that it was hard to trust a 15-year-old boy to be responsible so far from home (1,000 kilometres), but he trusted God to take care of him. He reminded Shane of another verse from Romans 12:21: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
These verses stuck with Shane and he was able to stand strong in his faith while in Kamloops. He refused to yield to the temptations available to a teenager on his own. His efforts were blessed and in 1995 he was signed by the Winnipeg Jets, where he was chosen Rookie of the Year.
"The more often you make the right decisions, the easier it gets," Shane says. "Not to say I've never made mistakes, but when I do I'm thankful for a forgiving God who is there for me." Another verse, Romans 8:28, is so special to Shane that he writes it on his hockey sticks: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
Fighting for control
That verse has helped Shane ride out the ups and downs of a professional hockey career. After only one year in Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes. "As long as I was with the NHL, I was fine with that," says Shane.
However, in 1997 Shane was sent down to the Coyotes' farm team in Springfield, Mass., for half the season. Could he still say, "All things work together for good?"
"I did miss the NHL," he admits, "but the guys in Springfield were great. I also had a cousin playing hockey nearby. Family is important to my wife and me, so we got to know him and his wife very well. They've been a huge blessing to us. God always has a plan, and that was it."
In an age where players sell out to the highest bidder, Shane has remained faithful to the Coyotes, spending his 11 professional years with the same franchise. He even says that the hockey strike of 2004-2005 was a blessing in disguise because his wife, Andrea, had just had a baby and he was able to share in his new daughter Karys' first year. He also enjoyed spending extra time with his daughter Gracie (now eight) and son Josh (now four).
Although Shane missed a few weeks of play this past November as the result of a back injury, he continued to trust God.
"I was back to being able to play again after a short break, which is good because I don't like just watching!" he says. "When things like that happen, you realize how little control you really have. The more you fight for control, the more frustrated you get. You need to accept what God is doing in your life. You may have questions but you don't let them consume your thoughts. You have to enjoy the blessings of every day.
"I remind myself that I don't have the hard problems some people have had. If they can still praise God, so can I."
Passing the torch
Shane scored the tie-breaking and game-winning goal for Team Canada in the finals at the World Cup of Hockey in 2004. He was also selected to play for Team Canada in the 2006 Olympics, but the highlight of 2006 for Shane was not hockey-related but family-related. Along with all those Bible verses, Bernie has passed on to his son the love of family. Shane's son, Carson, was born in September.
"My favourite hobby is playing with my kids," says Shane. "They're so much fun! Josh wants to play hockey; he is working on 'one-timers' now."
He says his wife is his best friend, which is important when you have to be on the road as much as he has to. "The more you can communicate and be honest with each other, the better it is," he says. "My wife is an incredibly strong Christian and has made my life considerably better. I am so blessed to have her. My greatest accomplishment in life was convincing her to marry me."
Even though his family is his priority and his own children keep him busy, Shane found time in December to deliver Christmas presents along with other Coyotes teammates to the sick kids at Phoenix Children's Hospital. He also supports the Thomas J. Pappas School for homeless children in Phoenix.
Shane says that he's now reading The Cure for the Common Life by Christian author Max Lucado, although one might argue Shane's life is anything but common. He's busy donning his father's mantle of being a godly family man, raising godly kids- maybe even a future hockey star.