All-Star Game Special To Modano
Saturday, 01.24.2009 / 5:41 PM / Feature
By Larry Wigge
Even after 18 seasons in the National Hockey League, one Stanley Cup, three Olympic appearances for the United States, one 50-goal season, nine seasons of 30 or more goals, two 90-point seasons, and six All-Star Games, Mike Modano has never been one of those if-you've-seen-one-you've-seen-them-all kind of guys. Everything...and I mean everything...he does is still special to the Dallas Stars exceptional center.
"Every day on the ice from the time I was a kid til now has been special," Modano explained. "I never get tired of it.
"They say, when you get older, the mental part of the game is the hardest -- and that's true. But once I'm on the ice, it's hard to get me off. And the games ... well ... once I set foot on the ice and start to battle, my energy peaks and competing has always gotten my blood flowing."
This year's All-Star Game is extra special to the 38-year-old, Livonia, Michigan, native, especially since his first midseason classic also was played in Montreal in 1993.
"I'll never forget seeing Rocket Richard and all the great Canadiens and thinking how wonderful the history of the game is here," Modano explained. "The history, the hockey feeling that permeates this city. I remember leaving Montreal believing in myself even more.
"When I got back home, I felt I belonged ... and was more comfortable with my game."
Through the years, Mike Modano hasn't seemed to need that kind of affirmation as he became the National Hockey League's all-time U.S. goal scorer and point producer. But having the opportunity to rub shoulders with the game's best players is something Modano would never consider passing up, especially since there were those who were wondering if last season was going to be Mike's last.
"To be coming here at this point in my career, I am excited," Modano said. "This is right up there for me. If I sound pumped, it's because I am."
So, while some might look at Modano being at the All-Star Game as being the twilight of a brilliant career spent entirely with one organization story. It's not that at all.
"When you get older and have injuries and setbacks, you value what you have more," he added. "Personally, I appreciate the game for what it's given me and what it's brought me."
And there's no mention of this perhaps being Mike Modano's swan song, right Mike?
"When I finished last season, I thought I had more to give as well as our team -- and that hasn't changed," Modano said succinctly.
And no one in Montreal feels these may be the last skateprints they'll see from Mike.
"Mo is one of the great players to be around," said St. Louis winger Keith Tkachuk. "Look at the history he's set for USA Hockey. He came in as the No. 1 pick and to be so young and playing under that kind of pressure, well, it's a testament to what a great player he's been."
"I look at him coming in on me as the same fast skater with a great shot, especially on the off-wing," said Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo. "Thinking about retirement? To me, he's got lots of juice left in the tank."
Added San Jose's Patrick Marleau, "What he does against us each year should be enough incentive to stay in the game, I'd think. I mean...the way he can skate...he can probably play until he's 50."
Even a young guy like second-year Chicago winger Patrick Kane, a Buffalo-born kid, waxes poetic about the kind of influence Modano has been on him growing up, "As an American kid, how can you not look up to Mike Modano. I always looked at the way he competed and the talent he had and wanted to push myself to be just like him on and off the ice. What a class guy. What a great teammate he is."
Kane smiled and then added an even more personal touch that most wouldn't have thought of, saying, "He's more special to me when you consider that I was born in the year that he was the No. 1 overall pick. Plus, the year I was the first overall pick (2007), he was breaking U.S. scoring records."
When I look at Mike Modano now, I still see the strong-skating, slick-passing and always dangerous center. Skill. Speed. Leadership. The face of the Dallas Stars. I don't just compare Modano to the best U.S.-born players. No, his career accomplishments are more than gold. They're global.
"From the moment he came to the Stars, he was billed as the face of the franchise -- and it's not an easy thing to live up to all of that hype," said Montreal Canadiens Coach Guy Carbonneau, who knows first-hand about the life and times of the team's first overall pick in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft because they were teammates on Dallas' 1999 Stanley Cup championship team. "Mike has always had such exciting skills. His skating ability. His instincts. His ability to turn around a game. His ability to take the team on his shoulders and make something special happen.
"But even through the years, when other players see their skills decline, Mike is still the guy an opposing coach has to game plan against. Nothing has changed there. When the game is on the line, he's still the one player on the Stars you have to watch very closely."
All-Star? Don't call Mike Modano anything else.
Author: Larry Wigge | Special to DallasStars.com