A Hockey Game Almost Broke Out At 2020 Phoenix Open Pro-Am

Japan's Hideki Matsuyama Is Flanked To His Right By Former NHLer's (L-R) Brad May, Curtis Joseph, Dary Hordichuk And Greg Adams - Image Credit Alfie Lau

By Alfie Lau

Shane Doan made history Wednesday as the first NHLer to play in the Annexus Pro-Am at the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open. And he brought a few of his hockey playing friends.

Doan’s caddy is arguably even more popular, as Paul “Biz Nasty” Bissonnette, best known for his Spittin’ Chiclets podcast, was Doan’s caddy for the first part of the day before his popularity with the fans had Doan “replace” Bissonnette with a friend with fewer fans for the final 9 holes. 

And also inside the ropes were former Phoenix Coyotes alumni, including goalie Curtis Joseph and wingers Darcy Hordichuk, Greg Adams and Brad May.

Almost lost in all the hoopla was the group’s professional for the back 9, Japanese superstar Hideki Matsuyama.

When the group came through the iconic 16th hole, Doan got a bigger cheer than Matsuyama and lived up to the advance billing, hitting the green on his tee shot. Doan then got the fans to chant lustily for Biz Nasty to tee up a ball and the Arizona Coyotes colour commentator then proceeded to hit a nice shot just short of the green.

Joseph was dutifully recording many of Doan’s swings and when asked if he might be conscripted to play in a future Annexus Pro-Am, Joseph said his game is a little rusty right now. He was happy to attend this year’s tournament, adding this is the first time in quite some time that he hasn’t been working during tournament week.

Adams clearly looks in the best shape of all the former hockey players, still lean and tall and the heroic Canuck who helped eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1994. May certainly looked like the part of a sports reporter, with his phone glued to his ear and a physique similar to most seasoned reporters. I’ll admit I only recognized Hordichuk from his driver’s licence, which was attached to his phone as he took video of Doan’s swing.

The Phoenix tournament organizers have done a fantastic job inviting former sports stars and local celebrities to the Annexus Pro-Am. Football fans could go see cornerback Patrick Peterson, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, running back Emmitt Smith, wide receiver Golden Tate and running back Reggie Bush. Basketball fans could see J.R. Smith, while baseball fans could see outfielder Shane Victorino, relief pitcher Archie Bradley, knuckleballer Tom Candiotti, pitcher Jeff Weaver and Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo.

Add in Olympian Michael Phelps and LPGA superstar Lorena Ochoa and you have a sports fan’s dream tournament.

Doan’s appearance and huge popularity may open the door for more former hockey players who have a connection to the Coyotes to be invited in future years. Former Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky is a regular at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am the week after Phoenix so it wouldn’t be a stretch for the Great One to get a warm-up round in Scottsdale.

Biz Nasty’s viral video of being “invited” to be Doan’s caddy begs for a sequel where he is invited to tee it up alongside Doan. And if the Coyotes are on an all-star break in subsequent seasons when the Pro-Am is going on, coach Rick Tocchet has been known to hit the links. And never underestimate CuJo’s ability to get his game into shape if invited to play.

Canadian Adam Hadwin played in a marquee group alongside Phelps. Hadwin played the back 9 with Phelps after Jon Rahm played the front nine before passing off the group to Hadwin. Phoenix is one of the tournaments which utilizes the 9-hole pro-am format where each group plays with one professional for the front nine and then another for the back nine. Imagine the thrill of getting Justin Thomas for nine holes and then Jordan Spieth for your final nine. Or Rahm and Hadwin.

If there’s any downside to this format it's that the nines were averaging three hours, or six hours for 18 holes as the amateurs soaked in the applause while the professionals got their practice in. The tournament starts for real Thursday with five Canadians in the field, led by three British Columbians and two Ontario players.

Hadwin makes his first start in 2020 after he and wife Jessica welcomed daughter Maddox on Jan. 8. Nick Taylor and Roger Sloan will also be trying to get their seasons on track, while Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes will try to help paint Phoenix red and white for the next four days.

Click HERE to see complete field and tee times.