The Dallas Morning News/Photo by Louis DeLuca. Illustration by Joshua Friemel.
Mike Modano is not mad at the Stars.
"That’s a bad rumor right there," the franchise’s all-time leading scorer said.
And to prove it, Modano will be honored as part of the team’s 25th anniversary in Dallas on March 31. The timing is pretty good, as it will be fan appreciation night at the final regular season home game, and it will be against the Minnesota Wild. Modano was drafted first overall by the Minnesota North Stars in 1988.
"It works out pretty good, because of the timing and the opponent," Modano said. "It kind of brings things full circle."
Modano came to Dallas with the Stars from Minnesota in 1993. He helped build a hockey following and tradition that is being celebrated throughout this season. Among other former Stars who have been honored are: Brett Hull, Ed Belfour, Guy Carbonneau, Craig Ludwig, Marty Turco, Brenden Morrow, Bill Guerin, Shane Churla and Todd Harvey, so it seems perfect to have Modano for the last game.
"We’re so happy he could do it, because it’s exactly the way the anniversary celebration should end," said Stars CEO Jim Lites. "Having him here is great for the fans."
Modano had a job with the Stars for a few years after he retired, but when he decided to live in the Phoenix area, the Stars felt they couldn’t maintain him as a full-time employee. That’s led some to speculate that the two were on harsh terms, but both Lites and Modano said that’s not the case.
"I love the team and I love the city, and I love going back there," Modano said in a phone interview. "I’m really looking forward to seeing the fans and looking back at 25 years. I can’t believe it’s been that long."
Modano lives in Arizona with his wife Alison and children Jack, Kate and Reese, and parenting has taken up a lot of his time. He said he appreciates the timing of having young children when his playing career is over, but also said he wouldn’t mind looking into a possible return to hockey in some form.
He’s just not sure which.
"It’s early in the process, that’s for sure," Modano said. "I’m just sort of sending feelers out to friends who work in the industry and see what their lives are like."
Marty Turco works with the Stars in business development, while several former teammates work in front office or advisory roles. Modano served as the Stars’ executive advisor and alternate governor when he lived in Dallas. In that time, he had a hand in developing the Little Rookie program and helped spread the word of hockey to kids in North Texas through free and low-cost outreach programs.
"Honestly, those are some of my best memories there, because you get to see the kids who can’t necessarily afford to start playing hockey getting a chance to enjoy the game," Modano said. "You hope you made an impact with programs like that."
Lites said Modano certainly relates to the fans.
"He’s brought so much joy for them over the years, and looking back on that joy, all of it with all of the players, is a big reason why we have had this celebration," Lites said. "You don’t want to live in the past, but you certainly want to appreciate it."
And Modano said he does. Asked why he missed Jere Lehtinen’s number retirement earlier in the season, Modano said he had a family situation that prevented him from attending. But he added that he and Lehtinen have talked a great deal this season.
"He knows I wanted to be there, and he understands," Modano said. "I think we all were a part of some special times here, and it’s good to look back on them. That’s what this is all about."
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