SAN JOSE, CALIF. – With his 5 o’clock shadow and sprinkles of gray, Mike Modano isn’t a baby-faced pup anymore.
But at 45, the former hockey star still is in fabulous shape and has plenty of game even though he has retired to Arizona and spends many days working on his single-digit handicap on a golf course, not his stickhandling in a hockey rink.
The top American-born goal scorer and point producer in NHL history attended Friday’s Wild game in Arizona, did the media rounds, got to reunite briefly with his old Prince Albert and Stars mentor, Wild assistant coach Rick Wilson, and talked about how much he looks forward to the Feb. 20 North Stars/Wild vs. Blackhawks alumni game at TCF Bank Stadium.
“Can’t wait,” Modano said one night after having dinner with his old pal and Stars teammate, Wild assistant coach Darryl Sydor. “I think we all can’t wait just to get back together and see a lot of the familiar faces again, those guys that were part of my career when I first started.”
Modano, drafted first overall by the North Stars in 1988, looks forward to seeing guys like Neal Broten, Lou Nanne, Craig Hartsburg, Brian Bellows and Dino Ciccarelli: “They were fun guys. I had so much fun being around those guys being a young kid. They were influential.”
Modano played four years for the North Stars and was a big part of their run to the 1991 Stanley Cup before the team moved to Dallas in 1993. He had 123 goals and 309 points in 317 regular-season games.
“[Coach Bob] Gainey would always tell me to just watch how [Broten] plays,” Modano said. “He played a good game both ends of the ice with and without the puck, just knowledgeable and smart. He was a real laid back guy. He never got too worked up about anything. He was always even-keeled when things were good or bad, like he didn’t have a worry in the world.”
Modano looks forward to being one of the youngest guys on the ice again.
“I’ve been through the alumni stuff back in Dallas and it’s pretty ugly,” he said, laughing. “I don’t think anybody’s going to be rolling up and down the ice. It’ll be a very easy-flowing game.”
Modano lives in Scottsdale with his wife, pro golfer Allison Micheletti (former Gopher Joe Micheletti’s daughter). He plays hockey a couple of times a month with the retired Coyotes alumni in the area and golf weekly with his wife or folks such as Coyotes coach Dave Tippett.
“It’s important to get outside. The weather’s perfect every day,” said Modano, smiling.
Graovac to Iowa
With Tyler Graovac ready to return after missing two months because of a sports hernia, the Wild expectedly removed him from injured reserve and assigned the young center to AHL Iowa on Saturday.
Wild coach Mike Yeo loves the way Jason Pominville is playing right now. In six games since ending a 21-game season-long goal drought, the veteran looks like a different player on a line with Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund.
“Right now, it’s a lot easier for him since the puck has gone in the net,” Yeo said. “But he’s gone out and had a much different focus on how he’s playing the game. He’s been stronger in battles, sharper in his executions. But more than anything else, his positional play [is better]. He’s trusting the game and good things are happening.”