The former face of the Dallas Stars Mike Modano.
Mike Modano had a storybook ending to last season (the Dallas Stars failing to make the playoffs notwithstanding). His final home game saw him get an assist, a goal and the game-winning shootout goal. His last game took place in Minnesota, where his career began. The crowd cheered his shifts (after years of booing), the Stars won, and after the game he came out in an old Minnesota North Stars jersey, once again receiving thunderous applause.
The Stars produced video tributes. People flew from all over North America to be a part of Mike’s final games. Hockey pundits lavished praise upon the career of America’s greatest scorer. The problem is, Mike Modano wasn’t and isn’t ready to retire.
Now, what does an organization do when they are ready to turn a corner, but the face of their franchise isn’t? According to GM Joe Nieuwendyk, you don’t even offer the player a contract.
Legions of Dallas Stars and Mike Modano fans have taken to the talk radio airwaves and the Internet to voice their displeasure about the organization’s decision. You see, in the South, we’ve been brought up with better manners than that. Up North, you can get away with letting a Saku Koivu (or any other player that has spent his entire career with one team) go. But with Modano … this one is going to hurt.
Mike Modano's good looks, easy charm and incredible play helped sell hockey in Texas.
When Mike and the former North Stars came to Dallas, Modano was the one the organization used to sell tickets. His
was the face on the billboards. Pretty enough for the big-haired Texas woman to pay attention to, and talented enough to keep even the most diehard Cowboys fan watching in amazement as he weaved his way around defenders with his hair and jersey flapping in his wake.
As for me, I had hoped Mike would retire. Not because he doesn’t still have more hockey in him, but because I felt, in some ways, the Stars needed to move on, both on and off the ice. I’m also someone who hates seeing an athlete’s skill diminish as he struggles to keep up with the game he has played all of his life.
Sadly, few remember how feared Chris Chelios was. New York Rangers fans watched Mark Messier become a shadow of the player he had been. Even beloved Vancouverite Trevor Linden was a healthy scratch many times during his final season.
Mike Modano is my favorite player. He took that position the very first time I saw him skate. (Sorry Neal Broten!) I’ve watched him his entire career, even when he didn’t have his familiar No. 9 on the back of his sweater. As he and I take on different roles for the first time in more than 20 years, I hope he goes somewhere that will make him happy once again. You could see his frustration last season at how he was being utilized; and when Mike isn’t happy, he doesn’t play as well.
So, Mike, as you embark on this new chapter in your career, I wish you nothing but clean, fast ice … and may your jersey forever flap behind you!
(But please … land out East!)
Photos: Mike Modano from mikemodano.com.