Editor’s note: A version of this story appears in the March edition of Preston Hollow People.
Mike Modano has received countless tributes and accolades both during his 21-year career in the National Hockey League, and in the three years since he retired.
However, the longtime Dallas Stars center said nothing compares to what will happen on Saturday, when Modano’s No. 9 jersey will be retired by the team in an ultimate display of appreciation.
“That really kind of puts an end to a career, knowing that you’re part of rare company there in the rafters,” said Modano, a Preston Hollow resident. “Knowing how much you’ve meant to a city and an organization is pretty special.”
Modano will be the fourth player to have his jersey retired by the organization, and the first to play the bulk of his career in Dallas. The team hasn’t retired the number of a player since Neal Broten’s No. 7 in 1998.
He is the franchise leader in games played, goals, and assists, and finished with 619 goals in his career, 58 of which came in the playoffs. Modano helped lead the Stars to the Stanley Cup title in 1999, and represented the United States three times in the Winter Olympics.
Modano said that when he was drafted by the Minnesota North Stars with the first overall pick in 1988, the Michigan native had no idea that he would be able to play in the NHL for more than two decades.
All but one of those 21 seasons were with the Stars franchise, including four in Minnesota and the remainder following the team’s move to Dallas in 1993.
“It never crossed my mind,” Modano said. “When you first start out ,you think they place a lot of faith in you to help change an organization. There’s a lot of trust there, and for myself I felt I could do that. It meant a lot to be able to stay with one organization for so long.”
After he retired in 2011, Modano returned to the Stars organization a year later as an executive adviser in the team’s front office.
“I love it here. It’s a great situation,” he said. “I never thought I’d be living here for so long and be a part of the community. The city really means a lot to me. It’s been a great relationship from the start.”
Modano’s current role with the team includes reaching out to fans and corporate sponsors who were prominent during the team’s successful run during the late 1990s but went away during their subsequent mediocrity and financial turmoil.
He also is heavily involved in philanthropic efforts, including Dallas Stars Little Rookies, a program he launched for first-time skaters ages 4-8 that allows them to skate for free with donated equipment.
The program – which includes four weekly 30-minute sessions – runs about five times each year at ice rinks throughout the Dallas area. The idea is to introduce children to hockey at a young age and continue spreading the word about a sport that became popular in Texas largely because of the success of Modano and the Stars.
“We’re trying to help spread the word again, and reach back out to a lot of those people. We’re re-introducing a lot of kids to the game,” Modano said. “To be a part of hockey at the grassroots level and watch it grow, that has a lot of meaning to me. That means more to my legacy than anything I did on the ice.”
Modano admits he might get overwhelming with emotion by the pageantry planned for March 8, when the pre-game festivities will include visits by several former teammates and coaches, as well as friends and fans.
“It will be tough, once I’m there seeing the faces of the guys who were big parts of my career,” he said. “That’s when it will really hit home for me.”