TORONTO -- Shane Doan couldn't walk away from the game he loves.
For the most part, the skates have been hung up and the sticks packed away, tools of the trade that built a prestigious NHL playing career of 1,540 games, 972 points (402 goals, 570 assists) and the 2012 Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award, and forged countless memories to last a lifetime.
Yet even in his retirement from playing, the fire to be involved continued to burn inside. Doan, 41, wanted his marriage with the NHL to last longer, albeit in a different capacity.
After skating with many of his former Arizona Coyotes teammates in the offseason, the harsh reality of his situation struck home when they departed for training camp in early September, leaving him behind, wondering what was next.
"That was a difficult time," Doan said. "I had prepared for retirement and thought I was ready for it, but that was really tough.
"You ask yourself: 'Where do I go from here?'"
The answer came Thursday, when it was announced that Doan has joined the NHL Hockey Operations Department, giving him the opportunity to educate himself about the off-ice workings of the sport.
[RELATED: Doan joins NHL Hockey Operations Department]
"We're always looking to get the input of former players, especially quality people like Shane who have accomplished so much in the game," said Colin Campbell, senior executive vice president of hockey operations. "We're thrilled to welcome him. His in-depth knowledge of the game will be invaluable to the League office."
Doan will work with Campbell and his staff on all aspects of the game. He will work closely with hockey executives at the club level and be involved with the Competition Committee.
The concept of a relationship between Doan and NHL Hockey Operations grew roots last season when the players who were on the original Phoenix Coyotes team in 1996-97 were honored.
One of the players who returned to Arizona for the festivities was Kris King, now senior vice president of hockey operations for the League. King was captain of the Winnipeg Jets when they selected Doan with the No. 7 pick in the 1995 NHL Draft.
"We developed a friendship right away back then," King said Thursday. "The guys in the leadership group on the team, including me, kind of took him under our wing.
"He used to come over to my house for dinner. My kids used to beat him up a little bit."
Twenty-two years later, there was King, back in town for the February reunion, sitting in the TV room at Doan's home. Their families having finished dinner, Doan told King that he suspected the 2016-17 season would be his final one.
"What are your plans when you are done?" King asked. "You should think about what it might be like to work on the League side of things."
Doan was intrigued. He reached out to current executives who previously held similar roles with the League, including Los Angeles Kings general manager Rob Blake and Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan.
Doan announced his retirement Aug. 30. Soon after, King and Campbell reached out to Doan with an offer: Why not come to Toronto and see the inner workings of the Hockey Operations Department?
It was a feeling-out process that proved fruitful. Doan spent three days in Toronto, a stay that included a firsthand look at how the video review room functioned during games.
Not long afterward, a deal was struck.
"They said they weren't offering the job to anyone else," Doan said. "It's a situation where I'll just be helping out with a bunch of things, being in Toronto in the war room, going to games, watching things that happen at games.
"It's really just learning how the League works."
Doan will attend League meetings, beginning with the general managers meeting Nov. 17 in Montreal.
Doan spent his entire 21-season career with the Jets/Coyotes franchise. He was captain from 2003 until his retirement. He leads the franchise in games played, goals, assists, points, power-play goals (128) and game-winning goals (69).
Doan was named to the NHL All-Star Game in 2004 and 2009, and won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for community service in 2010 and the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award in 2012. He also played for Canada at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, 2006 Torino Olympics, and the IIHF World Championship six times.
Although those accomplishments are prestigious, Doan has put them in the rearview mirror. A new challenge awaits, and Doan is eager to get started.
"This is the best game in the world, and to remain involved in it is exciting," he said. "It's just a new chapter, and I believe it will be a great one."