Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Tribute to #9

Every so often, a team gets a chance to draft that once in a generation type of player. A player who can instantly change the fortune of your franchise and electrify the home crowd with just one stride down the ice.

For the Minnesota North Stars, they got the chance to get that player when they held the first overall pick in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal. Here is then Stars GM Lou Nanne, making his selection.

Mike Modano became that player the North Stars needed.

When he finally got to play for the Stars, he did not disappoint. He had speed, he had moves, and boy could he score. He was the player who was going to put fans in the stands. As a rookie, Modano put up a 29-46-75 line. His second season...well, we all know how that went.

In Modano's first four seasons in the NHL, he scored 123 goals and 186 assists. He was becoming one of the league's top players and was doing so right in front of our eyes. But sadly, that is all the more Minnesota would get to see of Modano.

In the spring of 1993, it was announced that the Stars were being moved to Dallas beginning in the 1993-94 season. The Stars had had a multitude of issues getting a new arena deal and, at times, had issues filling the Met Center despite having a competitive team.

The move to North Texas was not easy. But luckily for the Stars, they had Modano. He instantly became the face of hockey in the south. In the team's first season in Dallas, he notched his only 50 goal season while matching his career high in points (93) from the previous year in Minnesota.

Modano played a big role in helping the Stars make the playoffs during his tenure with the club. They made the playoffs in their first season in Dallas, then after a two year absence, returned to the postseason, where they would play for 10 out of the next 11 seasons.

But if the Stars were to win in the postseason, they needed Modano to become more of a two way player. Enter in the coach who greatly helped Mo do just that, Ken Hitchcock (the current coach of St. Louis). Hitchcock molded Modano into not just one of the best two way forwards in the NHL at the time, he made him into one of the best who ever played.

At the peak of their playoff runs, Modano found himself holding the most cherished prize in all of hockey, the Stanley Cup. In the 1998-99 season, Modano registered 34 goals and 81 points then adding five goals and 23 points in the Stars march to the Cup over Buffalo. Modano and the Stars returned to the Finals the following year, but lost out to New Jersey in six games.

After the consecutive trips to the Finals, it was rewriting the record books for Modano. He ended up finishing his Stars career with being the record holder for eight different Stars records. And of course at the end of it all, he finished as the all time goal scoring (561) and points (1374) leader among American born players.

From a Minnesotan's perspective, it was very difficult to watch Modano win the cup and break all these records in Dallas, not Minnesota. But at the end of the day, you have to have a great respect for what Modano did not only in terms of records, but for helping promote and expand hockey in the south.

Did the Gretzky trade to Los Angeles help promote hockey all along the south? Sure it did. But was he the sole reason it survived down there? Absolutely not. It was Mike Modano. Without him, who knows where the Stars end up.

So from all of us in the Team of 18,001, we say thank you to Mike Modano. His number may be getting retired in Dallas tonight, but he will always have a special place in the hearts of Minnesota Hockey fans forever.

Thank you Mike.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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