In a sport increasingly dominated by foreign-born players, Mike Modano was an American icon in the NHL for 21 years.
Modano’s career marks of 561 goals and 1,374 points are both records for U.S.-born players and helped make him the face of a franchise and one of the most recognizable figures in the sport.
On Wednesday, the 41-year-old center announced he will finally hang up his skates, ending one of the most prolific careers ever for an American in the NHL.
“It’s just time,” Modano said in a phone interview with the Associated Press. “I didn’t get any calls after July 1 and I figured that was it.”
The No. 1 overall pick in 1988 by the Minnesota North Stars, Modano made his name with the franchise following it’s move to Dallas. In 1999, Modano helped lead the Stars to the Stanley Cup amid a 238-game sellout streak. In his prime, Modano, was one of the most exciting players in the league to watch on the ice. USA Today hockey writer Kevin Allen captured his essence in his Wednesday column:
“Modano was a Thoroughbred, a big, powerful creature with the level of raw speed that could cause a gasp in the crowd when he hit full gallop. He was a 6-3 center who could fly up ice like he was jet-propelled. Modano wasn't just a player; he was a spectacle, made unique by the fact that he had grown up in America at a time when Mike Eruzione's 1980 Olympic goal had stirred the hockey passions of a generation of young players.”
Last season the Westland, Mich. native signed on with his hometown team, the Detroit Red Wings, but when a skate sliced a tendon in his right wrist, he was limited to just 40 games and career lows with four goals and 15 points.
But Modano’s lasting impact on the game will be felt most in the state of Texas, where his blazing speed and wicked wrist shot introduced the game to a community devoid of hockey before the Stars’ arrival and transformed them into one of the top NHL fan bases in the U.S.
“Scores of kids grew up pretending to be Mike Modano, not only in our country, but across the world,” USA Hockey director Dave Ogrean said. “The 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.”
Modano’s announcement came via Twitter and Facebook, although his formal announcement is expected Friday. Fittingly, the Stars have announced they will sign him to a one-day contract so he can retire in the same No. 9 uniform he will eternally be remembered wearing.
On Wednesday the Twitter-sphere was aflutter with the news of Modano’s retirement.