DALLAS — Mike Modano gave local hockey fans so much that it’s only fitting that for once the Dallas sports icon gets to take something for a change. On March 8, 2014, the iconic Dallas Stars center will see his No. 9 raised to the rafters at American Airlines Center, in the latest fitting honor for the man whose appeal extended well beyond the pond.
In a way, it’s especially fitting that event will happen before a game with the Minnesota Wild since Minnesota is where Modano’s NHL career began in 1988, the year he was drafted first overall by the North Stars.
“I think it was between Detroit and Minnesota and it just happened to be Minnesota, which I think is just as good as against the Wings. It [my career] started there. I have obviously a lot of fond memories of my time there,” Modano said. “So, it’s something on the calendar now, looking forward to it.”
He had several solid seasons in the Twin Cities, but it was when the Stars relocated to Dallas in 1993 that set the stage for his name one day becoming as iconic in Big D as the likes of Nolan Ryan and Roger Staubach.
Modano was part of a sport that really took hold in the Metroplex in the mid to late-1990s and early 2000s. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Stars began experiencing a considerable amount of success in that time, including that magical run to the 1999 Stanley Cup, but Modano’s carefree attitude and the fact that his personality came through to a growing legion of fans made him a household name in DFW.
Of course, he’s already experienced several emotional moments at the AAC already. The first that comes to mind was on April 8, 2010 when he played his final home game as a member of the Stars. Dallas beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in a shootout that memorable night but few remember the score as much as they remember an emotional Modano being drawn to tears late in the game as he was serenaded with an unending chorus of cheers from fans who wanted to express their appreciation for all he had done.
And we’re all well aware that Modano did return to the AAC once as a member of the Red Wings the following season and still received a hero’s welcome, but there was something truly weird and maybe even eerie about seeing him in a Detroit sweater.
Modano’s other landmark emotional moments came in September 2011 when he announced his retirement from the NHL and also last October when he was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame in a ceremony in downtown Dallas.
When asked if he thinks seeing his jersey retired come March will be as emotional as his final home game with the Stars, he delivered a true deadpan response.
“I think it’ll be just as tough. I think the press conference was one of them that was tough, the last game, that one,” Modano admitted. “When you have to address people by yourself and you’ve got to say a lot of things in a short time and you’ve got touch on a lot of things, memories and moments, it just kind of all hits you at once. It’s tough to prepare for. You try to visualize it or practice it beforehand, but nothing prepares you for that moment when you’ve got to get up there and kind of get all that out.”
That night promises to be another memorable moment in the truly incomparable career of one Mike Modano. Now the only honor awaiting the former Stars icon is induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, for which he is sure to be a first-ballot selection in the near future.