Mike Modano was drafted first overall in 1988 to the Minnesota North Stars. He moved with the team when they migrated to Dallas. He has played all 1,575 of his career games (both regular season and playoffs) with the same franchise, and is the lone NHLer who was a member of the North Stars before they left Minnesota. He is the true American Hockey Hero (don't worry, John Carlson won't be far behind :) ). He leads all American born players in goals (544) and points (1,331). He has been a part of just about every U.S. Hockey team in international play since 1988, including World Junior Championships, World Championships, World Cup of Hockey, and the Olympics. He was a part of that defining Gold-Medal winning American team in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey in addition to the Silver Medal winning team in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. Modano also lifted the Stanley Cup with Dallas in 1999.
However, what Modano did for American hockey can't be measured. Statics, awards, trophies, and medals can't quantify what he did for the sport in this country. He, along with the 1996 World Cup team, made American kids feel like they could play. It was an inspirational win, and although it is not nearly on the same level as the "Miracle on Ice", it brought the game to a whole new generation of American kids. That win made the country feel as though we could compete with Canada in "Their Game." He did a lot for the growth of hockey in the United States, and he helped give the country confidence in the sport.
Tonight was most likely Modano's last home game in Dallas, and it was an emotional one for everyone involved. It was clearly even getting to Modano as he sat on the bench. With his team down 2-1 with under a minute remaining, Modano scored to tie it up. The game went through overtime without a decision, so it was time for the shootout. Once again, Modano came through in the clutch and scored the shootout-winning goal. Dallas won 3-2. Judging by his actions, Modano was treating this as though it was his last home game. Last night, fellow American hockey great Keith Tkachuk announced his retirement after this season. Losing these great American players is heart-breaking, but us hockey fans south of the border have a very bright future to look forward to. We may have lost Jeremy Roenick, Modano, and Tkachuk, (with Chris Chelios and Bill Guerin in the twilight of their careers) but we have some of the best young players in the game like Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Ryan Miller, Jack and Erik Johnson (no relation to each other) and T.J. Oshie. The future is bright for USA Hockey, and I can't wait for Sochi in 2014.
In the meantime, I will no longer have any reason to like Dallas even a little bit. Thank you for all your years of dedication and hard work, Modano. You turned hockey around for this country and it won't be forgotten.
And if anyone gets mad at my hatred for Dallas, just remember: it's Mike Modano's fault for leaving.