Mike Modano's number goes to the rafters

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 8, 2014 - 1:49 PM

The former North Star is having his jersey retired tonight when the Stars play the Wild.

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Mike Modano managed a lot of smiles during an emotional news conference announcing his retirement. Another emotional evening awaits him Saturday, when the Stars will retire his No. 9 before their game against the Wild.

Photo: LM OTERO • Associated Press file,

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– Mike Modano expects some waterworks.

The face of one franchise from two different cities will have his No. 9 retired before Saturday night’s Dallas Stars-Wild game.

“I’ll get the first sentence or two out, and it’ll be a struggle from there,” Modano, the Stars/Minnesota North Stars franchise leader in virtually every category, said. “It’s going to be tough.”

The Stars didn’t spare any expense. A 184-page book that chronicles the life of the highest-scoring American-born player in NHL history is on sale at retiring9.com. Friends began flowing into town Thursday for a golf outing and private dinner Friday. Following a “green carpet” arrival, Saturday’s ceremony will begin 90 minutes before the 7:30 puck drop.

Guests including Walter Bush, Neal Broten and Bob Gainey; ahem, former North Stars owner Norm Green, and members of the Stars’ 1999 Stanley Cup-winning team such as Jamie Langenbrunner, Brett Hull and Wild assistant coach Darryl Sydor.

Modano will be showered with gifts and video tributes from folks such as Lou Nanne, who drafted him first overall in 1988. Broten (7), Bill Goldsworthy (8) and Bill Masterton (19) are the only players in Stars/North Stars history to have their numbers retired.

“It means everything that so many people are coming,” said Modano, 43.

Modano is ecstatic Wild assistant coach Rick Wilson will be in attendance. Wilson recruited Modano out of Detroit to Prince Albert of the Western Hockey League and was his assistant coach with the North Stars and Stars from 1992-2002.

No. 1 choice

Modano’s 127-point season with the Raiders led Nanne to tell then-owner Gordon Gund that the North Stars would draft Modano, not Trevor Linden, first overall in 1988.

“His wife wanted us to take Linden,” Nanne said. “We brought the two kids to Traverse City for interviews, and then Gordon flew them to Detroit. Gordon called the next day and said, ‘What have you decided? [Llura Gund, Gordon’s wife] really likes Linden.’ I said, ‘Well, I hope she doesn’t hate me because we’re taking Modano.’

“I said, ‘Gordon, this kid is a charismatic guy that has tremendous talent that brings people into the building and then lifts them out of their seat. The other guy doesn’t.’ ”

Nanne, who can’t be in Dallas because he’s broadcasting his 50th Minnesota high school hockey state tournament, said, “I’m really proud. I thought he’d be great. But you don’t expect him to be a [future Hockey] Hall of Famer.”

Modano, a two-time Olympian, had everything. He was lightning fast, had great vision, size and leadership skills. Gainey, then Ken Hitchcock and Dave Tippett, helped coach him into one of the NHL’s most complete players.

Babies on the way

“I always thought there were guys that were fast and guys that were fast with the puck,” Modano said. “I just wanted to be one of those guys that could get up and down and handle the puck at the same time.”

Modano admits he was never the biggest fan of practice.

“[Sydor] was the good influence on me,” Modano said. “Darryl’s a workaholic. He wanted to skate every day. If I wasn’t dressed, he’d yell at me and drag me out there.”

Sydor was a groomsman in Modano’s first wedding, to Willa Ford. Sydor kiddingly said he wasn’t allowed to be in Modano’s second wedding, to pro golfer Allison Micheletti.

“I was bad luck,” Sydor joked. Allison, the daughter of former Gopher and NHL standout Joe Micheletti, is due in July with the couple’s first children.

That’s right, children. “Twins,” Modano said, excitedly.

Off the beach

Sydor, a defenseman for Dallas for eight seasons, gravitated to Modano the moment he was traded there from Los Angeles in 1996. He was Modano’s seat partner on airplanes, making certain the ultra-laid-back Modano had his seat belt on and phone off.

“Mike’s a pretty relaxed guy,” Sydor said. “I remember one time I’m sitting beside him and he was just out of it in his locker. I was like, ‘Mike, where are you right now?’ He said, ‘Just on a beach in Cabo.’ I said, ‘Well, you know what? We’ve got another period here, why don’t you come back to Dallas and let’s win this game?’ ”

Modano, laughing, said, “Darryl always had to get me off the beach and say, ‘This is reality.’ I’d be like, ‘Can I get a moment here and drink my margarita. I’ll be back in a minute.’ ”

It’s impressive a player who could zone out like that could score 561 career goals and 1,374 career points. Modano scored 50 goals in the first season (1993-94) in Dallas after the team moved from Minnesota.

“He had a different way of going about things, but when the intensity of a game picked up, nobody picked up his game more,” Sydor said. “He was the Troy Aikman of hockey in Dallas.”

Minnesota start

And not only did Modano shape hockey in an non-traditional market such as Dallas, he became the face of the North Stars.

“I remember I was sitting in the stands one night with my wife and there was a 5-on-3 for the North Stars,” Nanne said.

“Bob Gainey never put Modano out on the power play because he was upset with him for something.

“After the power play, this guy stands up, comes over to me and screams, ‘I pay money to see Modano, not those other guys. If you’re not going to play him, I’m going home.’ ”

Nanne said with a big laugh, “So, he left!”

Modano said, “It still blows my mind what the people in Minnesota think of me. It was a special five years. I’ll never forget how that town went crazy for the North Stars that spring and summer in ’91. Such a special place, such a special franchise.”

 

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  • FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2011 file photo NHL hockey player Mike Modano gets choked up during a news conference announcing his retirement in Dallas. Modano had several tearful farewells as his playing days wound down. The guy who made hockey cool in Dallas figures he’ll get emotional again for the final ceremony: retiring his iconic No. 9 during the Dallas Stars’ game against Minnesota on Saturday, March 8. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

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