Modano returns to where it started
Mike Modano stood by himself next to the boards behind the blue
line during a first-period break while a highlight video from his
Minnesota North Stars days played on the big screen above the
The crowd stood and offered an extended cheer. Modano’s face
quivered, the emotion evident as it was during the ovation he got
from his home fans in Dallas two days earlier.
If this was the final game for the 39-year-old stalwart center,
it was fitting that it came in Minnesota.
All 1,459 games of Modano’s career have come with the Dallas
Stars franchise, which moved from Minnesota in 1993 and stripped
the “North” from the team’s nickname. The North Stars drafted
Modano in 1988 and went to the Stanley Cup finals three years
later, an improbable run still remembered fondly in the region.
The NHL’s career leading American-born scorer — who has
557 goals — hasn’t given the final word on his future, but
the Stars’ game against the Wild on Saturday could have marked the
It sure looked and sounded like it.
Modano was honored with the game’s “First Star” despite not
scoring and managing only one shot on goal. After Dallas beat
Minnesota 4-3 in a shootout, Modano donned a North Stars jersey and
circled around the ice a few times to more cheers. In a postgame
news conference, his voice cracked and his eyes watered.
“It’s a little tough deciding what to do, and how to move on,
and how to let go of the game,” Modano said. “It’s been such a
part of your life since you’re 7 or 8 years old, and now you’re
going to suddenly just stop and wake up the next morning and it’s
all over — I guess that’s the hard part.”
Modano caught up with former North Stars teammate Neal Broten at
Xcel Energy Center before the game and reflected on memories of
playing in Minnesota.
“Rare and unique,” Modano said, of the opportunity to finish
the season here. “A lot of fond memories.”
He described his decision as a “tug of war” and said he doesn’t
have a timeline in place for making up his mind. Modano’s contract
“A lot of people have said to keep going and go as long as you
can, but sometimes the scenario and the situation isn’t such,”
Modano said after the team’s morning skate. “Those factors will be
played out as the summer goes on. It’s hard to make those decisions
right now. I need some time, I think.”
When the North Stars moved to Dallas, Minnesota hockey fans went
without a pro team until the Wild joined the NHL in 2000. Modano
kept on going, though, matching his career-most 93 points in the
final season in Minnesota with another 93 points in the first
season in Texas. He scored a career-high 50 goals that season,
forever endearing himself to a fan base in a place where football
rules and most ice is used to keep drinks cold, not so much for
Former North Stars official Lou Nanne remembered hearing about
an athlete popularity poll taken in Dallas a few years after the
move that put Modano right up there with Cowboys quarterback Troy
“He has that kind of presence,” Nanne said.
That’s what prompted the North Stars to draft Modano with the
first overall pick in 1988. Trevor Linden was also strongly
considered, but the Livonia, Mich., native won out.
“He had that flair. He was big. He was fast. He was quick. He
had great stick-handling ability. He had a tremendous shot,” said
Nanne, the general manager at the time of the draft. “He had an
excitement about him every time he was on the ice.”
The North Stars were struggling at the time, on the ice and at
“We thought he’d be a great player. We didn’t think he’d be this
good,” Nanne said. “You can’t judge an 18-year-old and know he’s
going to be a Hall of Fame player, but he had charisma and he
electrified a crowd. We needed somebody like that who could sell
After spending the season with his junior team, Modano brought a
buzz to Minnesota when he joined the North Stars. Two years later,
they were in the Stanley Cup finals.
“It was always the secret hope of mine that Dallas would let him
become a free agent, and he’d end up with Minnesota again,” Nanne
Modano acknowledged he was spoiled by that runner-up finish in
1991. It took him until 1999 to win a title.
This summer, he’ll assess the direction of the Stars franchise
and consider his feelings. He didn’t rule out signing with another
team if the opportunity was available.
“Possibly. I think that would determine what situation was there
and who was there, the players that’d I’d know on that team and
coaches and if I had any history with anybody,” Modano said. “That
would definitely be a last resort if it didn’t work out in