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Family, passion for hockey bind Doan, Price

by Larry Wigge
MONTREAL -- There's a plaque, probably covered in dust, in a closet back home at Bernie and Bernice Doan's Circle Square Ranch in Halkirk, Alta., that chronicles a pretty interesting and intense hockey rivalry not many people know about.

The ranch, which doubles as a Christian camp for kids of all ages at which the youngsters come to ride horses, swim and do archery, is home to a famous -- some may say infamous -- athletic family.

For everyone following the NHL All-Star Game in Montreal this weekend, Shane Doan is the captain of the Phoenix Coyotes. He's had a pretty remarkable NHL career since he was a first-round draft choice of the Winnipeg Jets in the 1995 Entry Draft. He's played his entire career with the same organization. But there are those in Canada's old West that swear that even if Shane made it to the Hall of Fame some day, he still wouldn't be the most famous member of his own family.

After all, five other members of Doan's family are already in Halls of Fame, starting with his grandfather, Muff Doan, who was the bareback champion at the Calgary Stampede back in 1937 and steer-riding champion in 1944. Muff is followed by great uncles Jack Wade, Urban and Earl and uncle Phil Doan, all of whom are members of the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame.

But the feats of athleticism don't stop there. Shane's younger sister, Leighann, set an Alberta provincial record in the shot put and was a standout in the 100-meter dash before she turned her attention to basketball -- and led the French women's pro basketball league in scoring.

And that still doesn't even take into consideration the hockey threads that marvelously are intertwined between the extended family that include the Ellerbys and Prices.

That hockey history started with Shane's dad, Bernie, a defenseman who was picked in the sixth round of the 1971 NHL Draft by the St. Louis Blues, and also includes three first-rounders -- Shane by Winnipeg, Carey Price by Montreal in 2005 and Keaton Ellerby by Florida in 2007. Plus, Ellerby's dad, Cal, played for the Calgary Wranglers junior team. His uncle, Dallas Ellerby, skated for Calgary, Edmonton and Victoria in the Western Hockey League. And Price's dad, Jerry, was a Calgary junior goalie who was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers.

Instead of calf-roping and bull-riding, the 6-2, 216-pound Doan chose to be an NHL power forward who crashes the net, bangs in the corners and hammers defensemen. In 2004, Shane made it to an All-Star Game for the first time. Now he's back, and Price, his second cousin, just happens to be on the other side, as Shane's Western Conference All-Stars meet Price's Eastern Conference stars.

Has Shane had already sent a warning shot out to Price?

"No I haven't warned him about wiring a high hard one at his head, if that's what you mean," Doan laughed.

"Nothing would surprise me with Shane," Price countered. "He's a great guy. I always looked up to him when I was growing up. But I really do expect him to pull something out of his hat that's a little different if he has a great scoring chance against me.

"Every year about this time, they show that All-Star Game highlight of Owen Nolan pointing at Dominik Hasek (from the 1997 game in San Jose) and then putting the puck right where he was pointing. I can see Shane trying something like that."

Not so, said Doan, adding, "I don't have those kinds of skills. I have to keep both hands on the stick at the same time."

Typical soft-peddling, added Price, saying, "Shane's got better hands than he's letting on."

Is that a little bit of trash-talking? Well, sort of.

Said Doan, "All I know is Carey is 2-0 against the Coyotes ... but I've got goals in both games.

"And in the game he won this year, I broke up his shutout bid in the third period, which kind of ticked him off a little."

The Doans, Ellerbys and Prices have a history of hard-working, hotly-competitive, argumentative parties over the years. It's not as fabled as the Hatfields and McCoys or as bloody as the McCartys and Lemieuxs, but ...

That plaque we spoke of earlier represents a series of hockey battles between the Doans and the Ellerbys.

"Every year on Boxing Day for about five or six years between 1988 and 1994, we'd have a family party that wound up on the ice," Doan recalled, with this vicious look on his face and lively memories to spare. "It would start out like a picnic. But then it would get pretty competitive when we took out our hostilities on the ice."

"I remember one year my cousin Darcy ran over my dad," Shane said with fire in his eyes. "I had  to get back at him for that. Another year my uncle Cal was creamed. And I had to stand up for my teammate in that situation, too."

And that plaque?

"It shows that the Ellerbys won most of those games," Shane said, quite proudly.

Wait a minute, Shane. Don't you mean the Doans?

"No, back in 1988, I was only 12 and the Doans thought they were the greatest thing in hockey since Gordie Howe and Rocket Richard and they didn't want a kid on their team," Shane laughed. "The Ellerbys didn't have as many players as the Doans and my dad (whose wife is an Ellerby) said they would be glad to have me play for them.

"After a few years, the Doans wanted me to change sides and play for them. But I told them, 'No way. You had your chance.' "

Price was only four or five when he got his first taste of the family rivalry, but only as a fan of those games.

"I always thought that Shane was always the best player," Price added. "Those games were hotly competitive. I remember a couple of games were real bloodbaths.

"The men in our family are not known for having soft hands -- not when they all were a bunch of farmers and ranchers."

I wondered if Doan had ever thought about following in the footsteps of his uncles and becoming a rodeo star.

"Not me," he laughed. "They're all tougher than me. It takes a different breed to do that."

We'd all agree that Shane is a different breed as well -- great character, leader, hard to play against.

"I'd like to think that getting to this stage of my life that there is a correlation to family skills and genes and how they can help you if you are interested in a career in sports," Doan said. "Look at Carey. Look at Keaton. It seems like everyone in our family is either a cowboy or a hockey player."

For Doan, knowing who his family is, what it represents and all about the roots, makes him feel really, really proud. And sharing this weekend's All-Star memories with Price makes it more rewarding.

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