Earlier today, we shared Mike Modano’s announcement that he will hang up his skates after 21 seasons in the NHL. It’s not exactly shocking news that the 41-year-old future Hall of Famer decided to finally end his career, but it underscores the conclusion of a great era for USA Hockey as well.
Modano’s explanation was pretty reasonable. He said that it was “just time,” explaining that he hadn’t gotten any calls from NHL teams after free agency began during July 1.
Modano figured that was it, until he received a potential training camp tryout from the Vancouver Canucks. He decided to turn the offer down for fitness reasons, although it’s acceptable to think that he said “No” because it seems wrong for the all-time leader in points and goals among American-born players to go to training camp to merely fight for a deal.
“I told him I had to pass because I hadn’t touched a weight or unzipped my bag since we lost in San Jose,” he said.
The final hockey memory of Modano might be his rough final season with the Detroit Red Wings, where he earned just 15 points in 40 games in an injury-ravaged 2010-11 campaign. He even found himself as a healthy scratch during most of the playoffs, but fellow Red Wings retiree Chris Osgood thought that Modano was about to turn the corner.
“He was on the verge of really producing for us before he got injured,” former Red Wings teammate Chris Osgood said. “By the time he was able to play, it was too late. But back in the 1990s, few guys could skate and shoot like him. I can still see him flying down the ice, cutting down the lane and snapping off a shot toward the high glove.”
In the big picture, it doesn’t really matter how his career ended. Modano made such a huge impact on the Dallas Stars franchise (where he spent 20 of his 21 seasons) and American hockey that few should remember him for his late-career swoon.
“Scores of kids grew up pretending to be Mike Modano, not only in our country, but across the world,” Dave Ogrean said. “That fact alone helps frame the enormous impact he’s had on the game. His accomplishments on the ice speak for themselves. He’s one of our greatest players ever.”
“He was invaluable in helping sell the game of hockey in Dallas,” [Stars GM and former teammate Joe] Nieuwendyk said. “Mike is the face of our franchise and I think it is safe to say that no one else will wear No. 9 for the Dallas Stars.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman congratulated Modano on an outstanding career.
“We thank Mike for giving National Hockey League fans 21 years of thrills with his speed, his skill, his craftsmanship and his class,” Bettman said. “Mike also excelled on the international stage, representing the NHL and USA Hockey with great distinction.”
As Modano contemplates his next step, many in the hockey world will debate where exactly he ranks among the greatest U.S.-born players to ever lace up skates. If you gauge a player based on more than just stats and skills (such as his ability to grow the sport), an argument can be made that he might be the most important American player of all-time.
Either way, Modano’s impact won’t be forgotten anytime soon, even if his playing days are finally over.