When the puck drops later this month for the Arizona Coyotes, it will do so for the 20th season in the Valley of the Sun; and with two of the few people who were there at the start, captain Shane Doan and anthem singer Patrick Lauder.  The two will forever be joined in the memories of the team that made the move from Winnipeg, MB, Canada two decades ago to bring professional hockey to the desert southwest.


    Doan was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets, moved with the team to their new home in downtown Phoenix, and began making his impact both on the ice and throughout the state of Arizona almost immediately.  Not long after the Coyotes began playing at what was then America West Arena, it was evident the sports fans of Arizona had found a player they could look up to and cheer for, claiming the Halkirk, Alberta native as their own.


    His charismatic smile and down to earth demeanor made him an instant celebrity in the state, and when he was named team captain before the 2003-04 season, his legacy was cemented in the desert.  After all, Doan took to the desert like rattlesnake takes to the desert sun, buying a ranch and settling with his family and horses just outside the Phoenix metropolitan area.  What was not to love about a down to earth, horse riding, talented professional hockey player who has signed more autographs and given more of his time and assets than any other athlete to ever call the valley home.


     Playing for the Coyotes in Arizona was something Doan probably never imagined when playing hockey his entire life in Canada, however when the team moved, he became an Arizonan and supports the state like no other transplant.  As the team prepares for their 20th season in the valley and Doan's 21st in the National Hockey League, the expectations for success and the idea of winning a Stanley Cup for the captain could not be more evident.  For many of his much younger teammates Doan is more than their teammate and captain, he is their role model and that leadership has built a bond stronger than glue.


     While Doan has been a staple for the Coyotes franchise, the person who sings the national anthem before each game, Patrick Lauder, is also a franchise fixture.  Lauder, a native of Vancouver, WA moved to the valley of the sun in 1995 and through the urging of a friend found himself auditioning to sing the national anthem for "new hockey team in town," what ultimately became the then Phoenix Coyotes.


    The audition led to an invitation to sing at the first ever Coyotes preseason game, and the rest is history.  Lauder has continued to perform the anthem at nearly every preseason, regular season and playoff the game the Coyotes have played for the last 20 years.  Over the years Lauder has enjoyed many great experiences, but has two distinct memories that immediately come to mind whenever he is asked.


     His most memorable moment at then America West Arena was when the Coyotes were making a playoff run. Lauder was treated as a big time celebrity, and many superstitious hockey fans and management believed his anthem may be the good luck charm to playoff success.  "I had been singing the anthem for Coyotes games, and during one of the playoff series someone called in to John Gambodoro's radio show and suggested that the team call me in to sing the anthem for good luck," said Lauder.  "It was really special, the team treated us like royalty, bringing us to the arena in a limo, I was dressed in a tuxedo, they really made my wife and I feel very special."


     Lauder says his fondest moment at Gila River Arena easily was the one that could be a singer's worst nightmare, the loss of power to their microphone.  "That night was so special, because the fans just jumped in and began singing with me," said Lauder.  "Having 16,000 fans as one voice was really incredible, they even knew some of my voice inflections, it really was special."  The Coyotes team and fans love for their anthem singer is nearly as strong as it is for their captain, and as the 20th season in the valley begins, the two men will forever be linked.


     "I always tell people that when the Coyotes start this season, there will be two guys that have been on the ice since the beginning, although one is only on the ice for a minute and half, and that person is not Shane," joked Lauder.  To many of the valleys biggest hockey fans, the season is not truly underway until the captain and the anthem singer have taken the ice.

     

         

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By: Scott A. Strande, Senior Writer