Coyotes recognize their hockey roots

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:22 PM ET

There are times when Shane Doan still feels like the 18-year-old rookie who made his pro debut with the Winnipeg Jets more than a decade ago.

Doan, the last active link to the team that became the Phoenix Coyotes, is among the big names slated to suit up against the Edmonton Oilers in an NHL pre-season game at the MTS Centre (7 p.m., 680 CJOB) that is expected to be sold out.

"That's just incredible," Doan said earlier this week from Arizona. "As a Western Canadian, it makes you proud when you know people are excited about hockey.

"For me, to go back to the place where you played your first NHL game, scored your first goal and to be given the opportunity to fulfill a dream and play in the NHL, it's always going to be very sentimental. You realize how quickly the game passes on. It feels like yesterday, but it's 11 years ago now. It's crazy."

This won't be a whiteout, or match the energy of Doan's final game as a Jet in the playoffs against the Detroit Red Wings, but the Coyotes captain is excited to see some red, white and blue jerseys in the crowd.

THE UNIFORM

"That game is something I'll never, ever forget," said Doan, who has the jersey from his final Jets game hanging in his basement. "It's going to be great to see that uniform, it was arguably the best uniform in the league when we left. It's going to be great to see those jerseys and the fans that supported us so much."

Defenceman Ed Jovanovski, a key free agent signing, is also planning to suit up for the Coyotes and he's heard all about the buzz generated in River City for the contest.

"It's always nice coming back to Canada to play," said Jovanovski. "It's a beautiful community and it would be nice to see them get an NHL team back one day."

Coyotes general manager Mike Barnett said only one thing will be missing.

"It will be different watching an NHL game (in Winnipeg) in an arena where the Queen isn't looking down on us," said Barnett, referring to the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II that hung from the rafters at the Winnipeg Arena. "They are knowledgable, fervent hockey fans and there is definitely a history and a link with this organization now. We just hope the fans feel as good about us coming as we do."

The Oilers are fresh off a Stanley Cup run that fell just short, thanks to a tough Game 7 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Centre Jarret Stoll is one of a few players dressing tomorrow that have played in the MTS Centre.

"I've played some AHL hockey there and I know it's a great hockey town to come back to," Stoll. "I'm sure the new rink is going to be rocking."


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