DETROIT – Mike Modano grew up dreaming of skating at Joe Louis Arena as a member of the Detroit Red Wings. He actually did it Thursday morning.
The 40-year-old centre, who signed a one-year, free agent deal with the Red Wings worth US$1.25 million and the possibility of $500,000 more through performance-based bonuses, joined most of his new teammates during an informal skate.
“It feels good. Feels great to be at the Joe skating again,” said Modano, a native of the Detroit suburb of Livonia who has spent his entire 20-year NHL career with the Dallas Stars/Minnesota North Stars organization.
He talked about getting accustomed to new routines each day and how he had tearful goodbyes with several of the close friends he made in Dallas.
“Little by little, I’m getting accustomed to things,” Modano said.
He also talked about a bit of personal history he has with one of his new teammates, veteran defenceman Ruslan Salei, who the Red Wings signed as a free agent a few days after they signed Modano.
On Oct. 2, 1999, Salei—then playing with Anaheim—checked Modano from behind and into the boards causing a concussion and neck sprain. Modano and Salei haven’t talked since they became teammates.
“He’s always been a hard guy to play against … Always in your face,” Modano said. He added that Salei inquired about how Modano was doing through other people.
“Just wanted to make sure I was OK,” Modano said.
One of Modano’s projected linemates, Dan Cleary, was also on the ice Thursday.
“Obviously he’s a real good skater,” Cleary said. “He’s excited … He’s back in his hometown.”
Modano, the highest scoring American-born player in NHL history with 557 goals and 1,359 points, left the arena as a passenger in Todd Bertuzzi’s SUV. Bertuzzi was one of the Red Wings’ players who Modano knew well and talked to before signing with Detroit.
The eight-time all-star led Dallas to the Stanley Cup title in 1999. Modano played in the Olympics three times and helped the Americans win silver in 2002.