In 1988, an 18 year old from Livonia, Michigan became the second ever American born player taken as the first overall pick in the NHL draft.
Tomorrow, Mike Modano will officially announce his retirement.
Somewhere in between being drafted and his retirement, he became an unlikely icon.
It’s not that Modano wasn’t talented enough to be a sports icon in Dallas. After all, he’s the highest scoring American-born player ever, along with several other records. Here’s a rundown:
Goals by an American born player (561)
Points by an American born player (1,374)
Playoff points by an American born player (145)
Games played by an American born player (1,499)
There’s no doubt about his skill. He’s proven that time and time again.
Instead, what makes him an icon is how he made a city fall in love, not only with him, or the Stars, but with the sport.
When the Minnesota North Stars moved from Bloomington, Minnesota to Dallas, Texas in 1993 more changed than just the team name and the weather. They were moving to a football city where the Dallas Cowboys were in the middle of winning three Super Bowls in four years. Hardly anyone even knew what hockey was.
Modano, at that point a budding superstar, was charged with being the face of the franchise. He made appearances, did interviews and just generally showed up places. Some say when he was out, he would explain the rules of the game to those who asked.
He almost singlehandedly got a football city interested in a northern sport. I remember watching him when I was growing up, not having a clue about hockey, and recognizing that he was not only faster than everyone else on the ice, he was just straight up better.
In a time where I was obsessed with Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, Mike Modano captured my attention.
It also helped their cause that they were winning. In a city obsessed with success, teams like the 90s Mavericks and 80s Rangers were frowned upon.
But when the Cowboys stopped winning Super Bowls, the Mavericks were abysmal, and the Rangers couldn’t get past the Yankees, Mike Modano was leading the Stars deep into the playoffs. When he and Brett Hull led Dallas to the Stanley Cup Championship in 1999, I was in sports heaven, and so was Dallas.
The newest team in the city had become the second Dallas franchise to win a championship.
Modano’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. He was the superstar bridge between Emmitt and Dirk, but we shouldn’t reduce him to being just a temporary icon. He’s had a lasting impact.
Look around the metroplex today, and you’ll see more youth hockey leagues than ever before. Several colleges in Texas now have ice hockey teams, and more and more Dallas kids are going on to play in junior leagues and other Canadian leagues.
There’s no doubt that Modano is behind this movement.
So, to the man that made a city fall in love with a sport, I say thank you.