Mike Modano

Home sweet home: NHL execs flock back to familiar franchises

NEW YORK (AP) — Martin Brodeur has been back with the New Jersey Devils for eight months and only walked by his statue once. It’s harder to avoid his banner hanging from the arena rafters.

Brodeur returning to the place he spent the majority of his career sparked a recent run of executives going home to work for organizations they’re synonymous with. Steve Yzerman last month went back to Detroit as Red Wings general manager. In the past week, John Davidson became New York Rangers president and Mike Modano went back to his Minnesota playing roots as Wild adviser.

Yzerman, Davidson and Modano don’t have to avoid statues but do have to balance being beloved by their respective fan bases with the new pressure of succeeding in the front office. There are plenty of recent examples of fan favorite homecomings that didn’t work out: Pat LaFontaine in Buffalo, Ron Hextall in Philadelphia, Trevor Linden in Vancouver, Ron Francis in Carolina and Patrick Roy in Colorado are among them.

Still, the lure of going home is always strong.

”All the things with my banner in the rafters and my statue, this is what I did as a hockey player, but now I’m trying to leave my mark in a different way,” Brodeur said. ”I came back because I care about the success and the fans and the area. Regardless, you still feel the pressure because you want to do well. I’m a proud guy. I’m investing my time in this organization and I want to see them do well.”

While Brodeur and Modano are business-focused now, fellow Hockey Hall of Famer Yzerman and Hall-honored broadcaster Davidson are right in the fire of trying to rebuild proud franchises into championship contenders.

Yzerman won the Stanley Cup three times as Red Wings captain and is back in Hockeytown after eight years as Tampa Bay Lightning GM and another as an adviser. His family still lives in Michigan, he was tired of commuting and he considers the link to his playing days ”irrelevant” in undertaking this challenge .

”What I did as a player is done,” said Yzerman, who will work in the shadow of his No. 19 banner. ”I can’t do any more, good or bad. It really has no bearing on whether I’m a good general manager or not. I have a job to do.”

Davidson understands he has a tough job ahead to try to deliver the Rangers’ first title since 1994. After 13 seasons in St. Louis and Columbus gave him executive experience, parts of eight seasons as a Rangers goaltender and two more decades as team broadcaster before all that drew him back.

”I was here 28 years in a lot of different areas and that makes it a whole lot easier,” Davidson said after his introductory news conference Wednesday. ”I wouldn’t have left Columbus had I not been here originally and had a sense of home, a sense of people welcoming myself and our family back. …. It’s just this is a unique opportunity at a very unique time.”

When Davidson and wife Diana walked the streets of New York on Tuesday night, she turned to him and said, ”Doesn’t this just feel like we didn’t leave?” Thirteen years after leaving the broadcast booth to embark on a journey that has made him one of hockey’s most respected executives, he felt the same way.

Davidson was welcomed home like a conquering hero.

”There’s a lot of good feeling because John is a beloved person here in New York,” longtime broadcast partner Sam Rosen said. ”He was loved when he was a player, he was loved as a broadcaster and people now respect that he’s been a lead executive in the National Hockey League for more than a decade.”

Minnesota is in Modano’s blood after he was the North Stars’ first overall pick in 1988 and played there until the team moved to Dallas in 1993. Post-retirement, Modano spent three seasons as a Dallas Stars adviser, and while this isn’t the same franchise he played for, he’s excited to get back to where his NHL career started.

”It’s always been obviously a real sentimental thing for me, an emotional thing for me to start my career in Minneapolis and St. Paul back in the North Star era,” Modano said Thursday. ”I have a lot of fond memories with fans and friends and everybody involved in the hockey community there.”

Modano will work with owner Craig Leipold, who heralded the Hall of Fame center as ”an important part of our hockey culture in this state.”

The same is true of Brodeur in New Jersey after he backstopped the Devils to the Stanley Cup three times. His job as executive vice president of business operations is about as far away from the pressure cooker of tending goal as Brodeur can get, and it follows three hands-on seasons as Blues assistant GM.

”I went from my playing career right into hockey operations as an assistant GM, so the pressure and the day to day operations was always big,” said Brodeur, who sold his old house to Devils coach John Hynes and rents while traveling back and forth to St. Louis. ”You figure from the first day I walk into the NHL to last year, for me, every game, you get the mood swings, you got everything. I was kind of looking forward to kind of sit back and just kind of look at the big picture instead of the daily grind. It’s been a great change for me and for me family to be able to handle that.”

Hall of Fame defenseman Brian Leetch, who won the Cup with the 1994 Rangers and returned as an adviser, isn’t worried about the heavy expectations on Davidson or Yzerman to make the most of a second act.

”Steve Yzerman, John Davidson – any of these people that are in these positions that are successful, they put the pressure on themselves to be successful and to have a positive impact,” Leetch said. ”As much as there is outside pressure from media and the big city and fans, it’s really internal.”

AP Hockey Writer Larry Lage in Detroit contributed.

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Modano returns to NHL roots in Minnesota, as Wild adviser

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Mike Modano has decided to return to his NHL roots in Minnesota.

The Hall of Fame center was named Thursday as the executive adviser to Wild owner Craig Leipold and president Matt Majka, a newly created position that Modano will assume on Sept. 1. Leipold and Modano often communicated by text message during Wild games this past season, sowing seeds for his hire.

Modano, who played the first four of his 21 NHL seasons with the North Stars before the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993, will focus on sales, corporate partnerships and community relations. Modano held a similar role from 2013-15 with the Stars, for whom he played 16 years and won the Stanley Cup with in 1999.

”I’m excited about it. I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity for a while,” Modano said. ”I needed a little space to get away. But the time has come. I’ve been itching to get back into it.”

Modano, a seven-time All-Star, had 561 goals and 813 assists in 1,499 career NHL games. He’s a native of Livonia, Michigan. He currently lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with his wife and four children, but the family is planning to move to the Twin Cities area.

Though Modano’s assignment with the Wild will be on the business side, Leipold said he’d be available to consult with general manager Paul Fenton as needed on hockey-related matters.

More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Video: Mike Modano’s Hall of Fame speech

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Mike Modano spent 21 seasons in the NHL predominately with the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars organization where he won a Stanley Cup in 1999.

Modano is the highest-scoring American-born player (561) and holds the record for most points by an American (1374).

An eight-time All Star, Modano is the Stars’ regular season franchise leader in games played (1459), goals (557), assists (802) and points (1359).

Hall Call: Hasek, Blake, Forsberg, and Modano make up 2014 Hall of Fame class

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The 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame induction class is one for the ages.

Dominik Hasek, Rob Blake, Peter Forsberg, and Mike Modano have been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame for their storied careers as players.

Hasek was a six-time Vezina Trophy winner and a two-time winner of the Hart Trophy as league MVP while with the Buffalo Sabres. He’s also been a member of two Stanley Cup winning teams in Detroit with the Red Wings in 2002 and 2008.

Blake played for 20 years with the Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, and San Jose Sharks and won a Stanley Cup patrolling the blue line with the Avs in 2001. He scored 40 or more points in 12 seasons in the NHL and was a Hobey Baker Award finalist at Bowling Green.

Forsberg was as dominating a force as could be found in the NHL during his 14 seasons in the NHL. He was the Calder Trophy winner in 1995 and won two Stanley Cups with the Avalanche in 1996 and 2001. Originally a first-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, he’ll forever be linked with Eric Lindros as part of the monster trade that sent Lindros to Philly and the building blocks to Cup winners to the Quebec Nordiques. He won the Hart Trophy in 2003 and won two Olympic gold medals with Sweden in 1994 and 2006.

source: APModano was the face of the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise over 21 out of his 22 seasons in the NHL before finishing his career at home in Michigan with the Red Wings. In his career he piled up 561 goals and 1,374 points, the most ever by an American-born player. His crowning achievement came in 1999 winning the Stanley Cup with Dallas beating Hasek’s Sabres.

Also joining those four are longtime coach Pat Burns who was elected as a builder and referee Bill McCreary who was selected for his work as an official.

Burns was a three-time Jack Adams Award winner as coach of the year and won his lone Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 2003. He’s forever known as being the face of the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs during the 1980s and ’90s.  He also led the Boston Bruins for four seasons in the late ’90s. Burns finished his career in 2004 with a career winning percentage of .574 but passed away in 2010 from cancer.

McCreary spent 27 years as a referee in the league working 1,700 regular season games and 282 playoff games. Known for his mustache and no-nonsense style, he earned the respect of everyone throughout the league and was often the man called on to officiate the biggest games. He also worked the 1998 and 2002 Olympics and earned the call to work the gold medal game in both tournaments.

USA Today’s Kevin Allen and CSNChicago’s Pat Foley are the 2014 Media Honorees. That group will be inducted on Monday, November 17 in Toronto.

Yup, Mike Modano and Willa Ford are getting divorced

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The NHL’s top couple is calling it quits.

Willa Ford, the celebrity wife of former Stars and Red Wings superstar Mike Modano, announced the two were getting a divorce after five years of marriage.

You might recall it was Ford who helped fire up Stars fans two summers ago that she wanted Modano to sign with Detroit to stick it to Dallas. See, this has more to do with hockey than you thought!

Perhaps now we’ll have more time to spend with Modano while he has fun sharing his exploits on Twitter, meaning we’ll get more awesomely awful photographs like this one.

(h/t Hot Clicks)