One of the greatest American hockey players is hanging up his skates for good.
Mike Modano announced Wednesday that he is retiring after 21 seasons in the NHL, a career that includes a Stanley Cup championship along with 561 goals and 1,374 points—both of which are records for U.S.-born players.
“It’s just time,” he said in a phone interview from Dallas, taking a break between playing 36 holes of golf. “I didn’t get any calls after July 1 and I figured that was it.”
Only it wasn’t. The 41-year-old Modano said Vancouver assistant general manager Lorne Henning offered him a chance last week to continue his career with the Canucks.
“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.
Modano ended his career as a banged-up player who had lost a step and some zip off his shot during his one-season stint with his hometown Detroit Red Wings. A skate sliced a tendon in his right wrist and limited him to 40 games and career lows with four goals and 15 points with the Red Wings.
“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 Modano’s prime, he was among the best hockey players on the planet — shifty, speedy and with a tough-to-stop wrist shot. He also played in three Olympics, helping the Americans win silver in 2002.
“His speed was his strength,” said former NHL player Chris Chelios, a teammate in the Olympics. “He had a great shot—hard and heavy—and he was tough to stop once he made a turn and generated speed. He was a great ambassador for the U.S. team.”
The executive director of USA Hockey agreed.
“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.”
The Minnesota North Stars selected the native of Westland, Mich., No. 1 overall in 1988. Following the franchise’s move to Dallas, he helped the Stars hoist the Stanley Cup in 1999.
Modano was in his prime when the Stars were among the NHL’s elite a decade ago, including a stretch of 34 home playoff games at rowdy Reunion Arena over three seasons from 1998-2000. When the Stars were at their best, Modano was the most popular player on a team full of fan favourites. The success fuelled a 238-game sellout streak and a youth hockey boom that led to the Stars building ice rinks all over the heart of football country.
Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk, who made the difficult decision not to bring his former teammate back a year ago, called Modano an icon in the sport.
“He was invaluable in helping sell the game of hockey in Dallas,” 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.”