The NHL will start its regular season this weekend without Mike Modano. Modano, a star forward played 21 (yes 21 seasons) for the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise.
He leaves the game as the highest-scoring American born player in history with a total of 1,374 points in 1,499 season games (561 goals, 813 assists). He added another 58 goals and 88 assists for 146 points in 176 playoff games.
The 41-year-old center announced his retirement on his Facebook page. He was drafted first overall way back in 1988 by the Minnesota North Stars; just the second American ever to be selected with the number one pick. Brian Lawton was the first in 1983.
He played in his home state of Minnesota for four seasons before the Stars relocated to Dallas in 1993 where he played all the way up until last season.
Brought to a hockey mad culture with the Minnesota North Stars, Modano displayed the offensive touch worthy of the exalted #1 pick status. The wunderkid delivered immediately, and the North Stars Legacy climaxed in 1991 with a Stanley Cup Finals run where they lost to the juggernaut Pittsburgh Penguins. However, the honeymoon ended soon as the Met Center was deemed unplayable by owner Norm Green and the team skipped town to Dallas in 1993. This move itself changed the way franchises operated through the 90’s, and in itself is discussion worthy.
He continued producing in Dallas, becoming a consistent All Star, and helping root the sport of hockey into the absurd spot of Texas. He scored, starred, and brought possibly the most infamous Stanley Cup in history to the now Stars in 1999. He racked up three Cup Finals appearances, and brought about an age limit for the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year). He finishes up with goals, assists, and points, all American player records.
Besides a stellar NHL career, he also served a vital role in both the huge successes and magnificent failures of the resurgent USA Hockey team after professionals were allowed to play in the Olympics, and the introduction of the World Cup of Hockey. He centered the championship Team USA in the inaugural WCoH in 1996, stunning the Canadians in the final series to take the gold. He also played in the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, earning silver against the same Canadians. He also, unfortunately, was part of the infamous 1998 Nagano team that trashed their hotel rooms with fire extinguishers, and failed to advance from round robin play.
Overall, Modano ranks number 22 on the list of NHL all-time scorers in points and number 23 in goals. He led the Stars to the Stanley Cup championship in 1998/99 and to the final the following year. He took home a gold medal in 1996 as a member of the winning American team in the World Cup of Hockey and earned a silver medal at the Olympic Games in 2002.
Modano left the Stars at the end of the 2009/10 season and signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings. However, he missed just over half of the season due to a severed tendon in his right wrist. He said when last season came to an end in Detroit he realized that he was finished as a player. He said he didn’t receive any offers in the summer, but the Vancouver Canucks asked him to try out before training camp started.
However, he turned the invitation down because he wasn’t skating during the offseason and said he wasn’t really motivated. He didn’t feel quite right about retiring from the league as a Red Wing though. The Stars helped him out in that respect by signing him to a one-day contract so he could officially announce his retirement as a member of the Dallas organization.
The Michigan native plans to stay in the game and will do some broadcasting work with the NHL Network as well as FoxSports Southwest, where he’ll work some Stars games. He said he’d love to work for the Stars franchise once their ownership situation becomes clearer.
He was the poster child, literally, of franchise relocation. Teams from great cities and fan bases, heading to greener pastures, larger luxury boxes, more dollars, but fewer fans. He was always questioned as being too soft, or even of protecting his pretty looks at all times. A cameo in Mighty Ducks and shirtless magazine covers, almost “A Rod-esque.”
The fact that the top American player was ripped out of the top hockey market in the world, for the sake of arenas and expanding demographics, always stuck with me and to Mike Modano for that matter. For the hockey purists, perhaps I’m one of them, he could never quite do enough to fully reach the expectations. His talent was wasted in half empty arenas in tropical locales, the failed experiment of the NHL to capture the nation as a big time sport. Modano could possibly be affected by the backlash more than any other in sports. The greatest offensive threat in this country’s history, the statistical equivalent of Jordan, Jerry Rice, or (good or bad) Barry Bonds, his retirement is rendered to a side note in today’s sports pages.