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Interview with Shane Doan

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Interview with Shane Doan

"IJM is culturally changing the outlook for kids that are being born now."

You protect the people who are on your team, who need your protection. If someone takes advantage of me, I expect my teammate to stand up and defend me. If someone takes advantage of one of my teammates, they’re going to have to deal with me.

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Shane Doan, a Canadian hockey player who spent the entirety of his National Hockey League (NHL) career with the Winnipeg Jets/Arizona Coyotes franchise, playing 21 seasons. He is the longest-serving captain in the NHL, a member of Canada's 2006 Winter Olympic team, has won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy and the Mark Messier Leadership awards for his leadership in hockey and in the community. He and his family currently reside in the Phoenix AZ area but come home to Canada each summer.

Shane shared about his days growing up in Halkirk, Alberta, his dad, his NHL career and his involvement with IJM.

What was it like growing up in rural Alberta, on Circle Square Ranch? What kind of memories do you carry with you, and how did that play into your hockey career?

Halkirk is a typical very small community. The families that are there have lived there for a long time and the connection to the area is strong. Most of my friends still live in the same area and the same community. Growing up there, was an unbelievable anchor. What my parents did there; they have a servant's heart, they just wanted to help people and that’s what the ranch is all about, trying to help people. That’s the whole community itself. I was very fortunate to have that.

What about your experience on the ranch? That must have helped you build certain character traits about hard work, that helped you connect and develop those characteristics in your hockey career.

Without a doubt. I can’t stress enough that the ranch was huge. The ranch is my family. My dad was a director. My uncle donated the land. Everyone that came through seemed to be a friend or relative.

One of my favourite things my dad said to me all the time was that,

“if you enjoy working hard, every day is a holiday.”

It was one of those things that I didn’t really understand until I got a little bit older, but it was put there, and it was established. We were the caretakers of the ranch; there to make people’s day better - that’s your job when people come out. I think that goes a long way towards being a teammate. To be a good teammate is to make sure that the people around me have a better day. If you can approach every day that way, it’s amazing the influence that you can have and the respect that you get from just being respectful and trying to make their day better. It’s pretty impressive.

We have a saying in IJM that hope is a more powerful motivator than fear, what do you think of that idea?

That is great because with fear paralyzes you and hope energizes you. Hope will always defeat fear too. It will always win.

Here’s a hockey example: Sometimes it’s better to miss a guy with a big hit. If you come up the ice and you take a run at a defenseman and you just miss him and you hit the boards and there’s a huge bang, or you take a run at somebody and they sidestep you and you blow through and catch their arms and miss them, there’s an element of fear that goes into the other team. Same with our team, if someone does that to one of our defensemen, our defensemen for the rest of the night they have their eyes up and they’re ready and if the guy had actually hit him, it would’ve been like, “Oh, that was a big hit” but our guy would’ve got up and it would’ve been over.

The idea that there’s a little bit of fear there would actually influence a game sometimes more than the actual big hit itself. Sometimes if you just miss somebody and hit the boards hard, their whole bench is like, “Woah, heads up, they’re coming”. Where if you hit them hard, it sometimes creates a reaction where there might be a fight, might be something else that happens and it’s over and done with. But the thought of fear gets in your head and it’s hard to get past. So, it’s amazing on how hope works.

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What does it mean to be scrappy and consistent?

It’s doing the ordinary stuff that IJM does over (x4) again that becomes extraordinary. You show up and you are there for people who need you to be there for them. Standing beside them, being there daily, when nothing seems to be changing, you keep showing up. There’s a song by Phil Driscoll, the champion song, Heart and Soul:

If you want to be a champion.
If you want to win, win BIG!
There is a price; you have to sell out!
You have to be willing to give it everything you got.
And when it looks like you can't win, you’ve got to get up; you got to say:
"I am goin on
I am not stopping.”

I think that summarizes what it is to play professional sports, I lost so many games as a player. You can write all the jokes you want about the fact that the Coyotes lost a ton of games and didn’t make the playoffs and didn’t do any of the things that I wanted to do - win a Stanley Cup - and all those things, without a doubt, they all bug me. But at the same time, I’ve played with guys that have won Stanley Cups and I’ve played with guys that have never won Stanley Cups and some of the guys that never ever won are more winners in my books - maybe I’m a little biased towards that - but are more winners in the way that they never ever quit. They were never in a situation to win. They never ever quit. They just kept going.

I think that there is perseverance that comes with that, that when you just have to keep battling, understanding that the odds are stacked against you and you just show up again the next day. You just keep showing up. You hope and you pray that something turns, and you just show up again the next day.

It’s amazing on how important hope is in sports.

One of the things I always say about sports is that it amplifies what happens in life because it happens in a short amount of time. As a hockey player, if I notice something going on in my dressing room, and I adjusted or changed something, I see a result very quickly. Where in life, if you see something that you need to change in your life, it takes a while for you to see change happen. It’s not like you do something today and 10 days later you’re like, “Wow, that’s worked, we’re doing great now”. It might take 4 or 5, 6 years. So, when you see how important hope is, as a hockey player, when your players believe and hope that there’s a possibility of something, the fight and the scrappiness that comes is incredible. The determination that comes is incredible.

When you’re saying with IJM, when you see some of your successes or the hope of some of your successes, there’s a resurgence in the ability to fight and endure. I think the ability to take it to something like IJM is what’s exciting for me because I’ve had the opportunity to see how valuable hope is.

When my team believed that we could win, we were a different team. When your leadership and your group doesn’t know if you can win, you’re a fragile team. It’s amazing how it ebbs and flows like that in a year. People often ask, “When did you know if you had a good team?" It’s when your team has faced adversity and you’ve responded. You’ll know where your team is then. If your team faced adversity and as a group, they rise and come out of it, you know you have a good team and you can be confident that your team is going to be okay for the rest of the year. That scrappiness, that comes from hope and I think that’s important.

What are you trying to show to your children now, about the importance of justice and why they should care about these things as well? What kind of things are you passing on in terms of your knowledge and wisdom?

If you want to be great, be a servant.

Being a servant is fighting for others and being there for others when they need you. The school they go to gets to go down and help in different parts of Northern Mexico and they get to be involved with that. The value that I think my wife and I placed on them is to be willing to help others that need our help. To defend others that need to be defended.

It’s funny because people ask me about fighting in hockey quite a bit because as a Christian, what do you do? My kids saw I didn’t usually do too much if someone did something to me. Not saying that I never ever did, and sometimes I even initiated it, but for the most part, the reason that I would end up in a fight was in defence of a teammate. In just talking with my kids, they understood that we are to be our brother’s keeper, we’re the help, we’re to be there for each other, and that if, as a whole, we all did that, there wouldn’t be a need for any one person to do it, so we all need to be able to do it.

We have to recognize it as a whole society - our job is to defend the vulnerable. It's hard to say it's the one thing that I would do to show my kids, but I hope that my kids see that daily in the lives of my wife and me.

What is it about this connection to IJM that resonates with you? What is the reason why you want to be part of Team Freedom?

I think that everybody who feels they’ve been given, probably a little bit more than they deserve, has a desire to help out those that have been given less than they deserve. That I think is immediate.

Then as an athlete, and as a hockey player, the mentality that has been put in us as hockey players is you defend yours; you protect yours.

You protect the people who are on your team, who need your protection. If someone takes advantage of me, I expect my teammate to stand up and defend me. If someone takes advantage of one of my teammates, they’re going to have to deal with me.

I think that that’s at the heart of most people wanting to defend the vulnerable, but particularly, in our sport, it’s huge.

For me to have the opportunity to pair with IJM - which has made it their mission and their goal to defend those that can’t defend themselves, to protect and to stand up and say, “Hey, you might be in a vulnerable situation but we’ve got your back” - it resonates with me. As a dad, it resonates with me and breaks my heart. I have a hard time finding anybody that doesn’t really feel that way, and yet, so often we seem to think that it’s someone else’s job. Sometimes life is busy and hard, and you don’t get given the opportunities, but I was given the opportunity to do this.

If we are given the opportunity to be somebody who can make a difference and help someone who needs it, we will for the most part. Micah 6:8 is something that I’ve loved my whole life. I think that verse “What does the Lord require of you? To do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with him.” is written right there for me. You can’t say it any better, I love that.

Do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly as you do it. I think those things are what’s required of us.

Do you feel the idea of responsibility is part of what makes this work for you?

As a Dad, I can tell my sons right now, “It’s important that you make your bed in the morning because of x, y, and z”. They just see it as, “I don’t want to make my bed. I’d rather go do anything else at this time” What I've learned, and am trying to teach them is that the more that I get done, the greater the sense of self-worth, which then makes me accomplish more.

So, when you are given an opportunity like IJM has offered to get involved, there’s a feeling of accomplishment in what you’re doing and you have the joy that’s in you to do something else. It builds upon itself, and that comes from simply the principle of making your bed.

The other day I was watching something about COVID, and the thing that COVID has done is it eliminated the 4 things we feel entitled to; we feel entitled to our time, we feel entitled to talents, we feel entitled to our freedoms, and we feel entitled to our treasures. Those are the 4 things that we feel entitled to as human beings and really, we are not. As we lay those down and help others, it’s actually more fulfilling. That’s the life that I think Christ calls us to do, to lay our life down for others. It's put into us at the very beginning. That’s a really long-winded way of saying what my dad was saying. When you enjoy working hard, you’re going to enjoy the day more.

Is there a certain story from within IJM that you look at and say, “I love that.”

I think what is going on in the Philippines - not diminishing the fact that there are individuals who have been saved directly - that touches your heart and when it touches your heart, it’s going to change you forever - but when you see the statistics of the difference that it’s making you think, “Oh my goodness. Not only is this saving 1 or 2 lives, but IJM is culturally changing the outlook for kids that are being born now.”

That sounds almost vague and too big, but at the same time, the fact that it’s so big is probably the biggest influence.

I had the opportunity to go to The Sedona Forum at the McCain Institute. It’s incredible what they’re trying to do and what they are doing. When you tell people there, “Hey, I got an opportunity to work with this organization called IJM”, their reactions are the best, “They are making a difference in the world”. One of Senator McCain’s team said, “Get involved with them, they’re the best. They’re not just talking about it, they’re doing it. They’re doing it the way that will change things”.

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