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Retiring 9: Honoring A Living Legend

Through the years many men come and go in the NHL, some leaving more of a mark on the game than others, but very few affect the game and fans of the game in such a way that make them unforgettable.

Mike Modano is a man that has given his life to the game of hockey. He is a man that put his heart and soul into every second of every game he played and gave just as much of his heart and soul to his team, playing with the Dallas Stars/Minnesota North Stars for over 20 years and being quite possibly the most instrumental player in establishing hockey in the southern United States, particularly the football state, Texas. Not only did Mike Modano show great prowess and skill on the ice, but he is an incredible man, with everyone that has met him saying he is a genuinely nice and caring guy.

After spending the great majority of his career with the Stars organization and earning his reputation as not only the greatest person to suit up for the Stars (in both Dallas and Minnesota), it is a no brainer that his number 9 will be retired, meaning he will join the ranks of people like Neal Broten (7), Bill Goldsworthy (8), and Bill Masterton (19) whose numbers are all retired for the Stars. Modano will be the second Star to have his number retired in Dallas, the other being Neal Broten in 1998 and Masterton and Goldsworthy’s number being carried over from Minnesota.

As we count down the days to the Retiring 9 ceremony on March 8, I felt it was necessary to take a look back at Mike Modano’s illustrious career.

 

 

The Beginning

Mike Modano began skating at the young age of 7 and was soon playing hockey locally. (Dallas Stars/Modano Family)
Mike Modano began skating at the young age of 7 and was soon playing hockey locally.
(Dallas Stars/Modano Family)

Mike Modano was born Michael Thomas Modano Jr. in Livonia, Michigan to Michael, Sr. and Karen Modano. He is the youngest child, having two older sisters. Mike was known as a troublesome kid in his early childhood, causing problems at school and being known for mischievous behavior. As a result, a friend suggest to Mike’s father that he get Mike involved in ice hockey to deal with all of Mike’s excessive energy. As a result, Michael Sr. began teaching 7 year-old Mike how to ice skate, a skill that he picked up very quickly. Six months later Mike Modano was playing for local hockey teams.

Mike quickly earned a reputation as a great hockey player and in 1986, at the young age of 16, he was invited to join the Prince Albert Raiders in the Western Hockey League. Mike accepted the offer and made a move to the Great White North. This proved to be a great decision for the Raiders, with Mike scoring a hat trick in his very first game. He continued to make a name for himself when he made the WHL All-Star Team the very next year. By 1988 Mike felt he was ready for the big leagues, entering the 1988 NHL Entry Draft. Just four days before his 18th birthday Mike was selected by the Minnesota North Stars as the first overall pick of the draft.

 

 

Minnesota North Stars

Mike Modano was selected as the first overall pick in the 1988 NHL Draft by the Minnesota North Stars, a team that he would stay with for two decades. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)
Mike Modano was selected as the first overall pick in the 1988 NHL Draft by the Minnesota North Stars, a team that he would stay with for two decades.
(Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

After being chosen first overall, Mike signed his first contract with the North Stars on December 25, 1988 and joined them for the 1989-1990. Mike didn’t disappoint, scoring a goal in his first NHL game against Glenn Healey of the New York Islanders. The rest of his rookie season went just as well, scoring a total of 29 goals and 46 assists in 80 games, landing him a spot as a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy, an honor he controversially lost to 31 year-old Sergei Makarov. Makaraov had been playing in the Soviet Championship League for over 12 years and would ironically play for Dallas Stars in the future.

Despite receiving much criticism from Minnesota fans for not playing as defensively as some would like and not living up to the second pick, Trevor Linden, Modano quickly worked his way up the ranks and became one of the top players on the North Stars. Modano continued to work hard, and it paid off in the 1992-93 season when he finished the season with 93 points and played for the all-star team. Despite the great play, big plans were in motion.

 

 

Heading South

The Minnesota North Stars made their move to Dallas in 1993, a big change that Mike Modano embraced wholeheartedly. (Photo by Eric Gay/AP)
The Minnesota North Stars made their move to Dallas in 1993, a big change that Mike Modano embraced wholeheartedly.
(Photo by Eric Gay/AP)

After several years of poor attendance and personal controversy within the North Stars organization, they made news that shocked everyone. Not only would they be relocating, but they would be heading south…. way south.

In 1993 the Minnesota North Stars were no more, now becoming the Dallas Stars. They moved into Reunion Arena, already the home of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, and began establishing a new reputation. This was not only a shock to hockey fans up north, who couldn’t imagine hockey in a state that is hot enough melt a sheet of ice before you can even get your skates on, but it also came as a shock to many Texans, most of whom didn’t even know how the game was played.

Despite having little knowledge of the sport, Dallas fans quickly embraced their new team and the Stars soon had a dedicated fanbase that remains today, with Mike Modano being the face of the team. Despite facing several injuries in the next few seasons, Modano notably improved his defensive play and stepped up to be the top player on the team. After hiring Ken Hitchcock as coach and aquiring top level talent such as Sergei Zubov, Brett Hull, Joe Nieuwendyk, and Eddie “The Eagle” Belfour, the Stars soon became one of the top teams in the league, conquering almost anyone in their path.

 

 

Lord Stanley’s Cup

Mike Modano famously shed tears after the Dallas Stars won their first and only Stanley Cup in the third overtime against the Buffalo Sabres. (Photo by Andy Scott/Staff Photographer)
Mike Modano famously shed tears after the Dallas Stars won their first and only Stanley Cup in the third overtime against the Buffalo Sabres.
(Photo by Andy Scott/Staff Photographer)

After making some big changes to their roster and staff after moving to Texas, the Stars had begun winning and moving their way up the ranks.

After a spectacular season in 1998-99 and clinching the President’s Trophy for the second straight year, the Stars looked like they were ready for some Stanley Cup action. Modano and the Stars fought hard and eliminated the Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues, and Colorado Avalanche to get into the Stanley Cup Finals against the Buffalo Sabres.

Modano proved how tough of a player he was when he broke his wrist in Game 2 against the Sabres and decided to continue playing injured for the rest of the series. Even with his broken wrist, something that was seen as a target by the Sabres, Modano assisted on the Stars’ final five goals in the series, including Brett Hull’s Cup-winning goal. On June 19, 1999 Mike Modano and the Dallas Stars won the first Stanley Cup in franchise history after defeating the Sabres in the third overtime.

 

The Stars returned to the Stanley Cup Finals the very next year to face the New Jersey Devils. Despite a hard fought battle, with Modano scoring the game-winning goal in Game 5, the Stars lost to the Devils in Game 6, losing the series 4-2.

 

 

After the Cup and Retirement

Modano stuck with the Stars throughout the years and continues to work within the organization and live in Dallas to this day. (Photo by Vernon Bryant / DMN)
Modano stuck with the Stars throughout the years and continues to work within the organization and live in Dallas to this day. (Photo by Vernon Bryant / DMN)

After winning the Cup in 1999 and going back to the finals in 2000, Modano went on to be nominated for a Frank J. Selke trophy in 2001 and a Lady Byng Trophy in 2003. Despite great success, the Stars were going through a period that saw a lot of the 1999 team being sent away. After longtime captain Derian Hatcher was not resigned in 2003, Mike became the new captain of the Dallas Stars.

Mike served as the captain of the Stars until September 29, 2006, when he was replaced by Brenden Morrow. Once Morrow became captain Mike went back to serving as the alternate captain, which he had already served as from 1995 to 2003. Mike would remain alternate captain until he left the Stars in 2010.

Mike Modano continued to play as the face of the team, eventually beginning to break many records in the NHL. On March 17, 2007 Mike officially broke the record for most goals by a U.S. born hockey player, a record previously held by Joe Mullen. It was the very next season that Mike broke Phil Housely’s record for most points by an American-born player on November 7, 2007 when he scored two goals in five minutes against Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks. Later that night Mike received a congratulatory phone call from George W. Bush.

The Dallas Stars announced on June 29, 2010 that they would not be renewing Mike Modano’s contract, something that seemed unthinkable to hockey fans everywhere. Mike then contemplated whether to sign with the Minnesota Wild, the state where he began his professional career, the Detroit Red Wings, his home state and childhood favorite team, or retirement. After a long period of serious consideration Mike Modano decided to sign with the Detroit Red Wings. Mike decided to wear #90, due to #9 being retired in Detroit for Gordie Howe, a player Modano admired as a child and one of the reasons Mike eventually decided to wear the number himself.

After a less than impressive season with the Red Wings, Modano announced his retirement on September 23, 2011. He was signed by the Dallas Stars to a one-day contract, allowing him to officially end his career with the franchise that he gave his heart and soul to for twenty years. In January 2013, Modano returned to the Stars organization and became an alternate governor and executive advisor for the Stars’ office.

Modano was recently married to professional golfer Allison Micheletti on September 1, 2013 and the couple are currently expecting twins.

 

The Ceremony

The Dallas Stars will officially be retiring the number 9 in honor of Mike on March 8, 2014 in a game against the Minnesota Wild, the same team he played his final game as a Star against. The ceremony is expected to include many of the players from the 1999 team as well as others that played a part in Mike’s incredible career.

Thank you Mike. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)
Thank you Mike.
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)

On behalf of hockey fans everywhere, thank you Mike.

Brendon Carlton

Brendon Carlton

21 year old aspiring film director/producer, writer, and lifelong fan of hockey and the Dallas Stars. Dallas Stars contributor for Hooked on Hockey Magazine
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