The past few years have been very tough for Dallas Stars fans. The ownership issues combined with inconsistent efforts by the home team have led to three years of frustration and overall mediocrity. The fans have seen four all-time favorite players leave Dallas for other ventures; Sergei Zubov to the KHL, Mike Modano and Marty Turco via free agency and Jere Lehtinen to eventual retirement.
This past summer we lost a cherished member of the Dallas Stars family in Karlis Skrastins, who -- despite playing only two seasons in Dallas -- has left a hell of an impact on those that knew him and those that cheered for him.
As we face what most feel to be an optimistic season with new beginnings, with a new coach and a new owner on the way, the most popular hockey player to ever step foot on the ice in Dallas has officially decided to hang up his skates. Last April, when Modano took the ice for his final game ever at the AAC while wearing a Stars jersey, we didn't know what the future held. We didn't know that he'd try for one more year in Detroit and we certainly didn't foresee the anger from fans that would be directed at the team with his departure.
At the time, it was perhaps the most emotional night in Stars history. 18,000-plus fans were in attendance to the farewell to Mike Modano, who would go out in the only way he could, would score the game-tying goal with just over a minute remaining in regulation as well as scoring a decisive goal in the shootout.
That night was also the final home games for Marty Turco and Jere Lehtinen. Turco would stand tall in the shootout while Lehtinen would notch the game-winning goal in the shootout, a triumphant swan song for three incredibly talented and popular hockey players. While Modano is retiring and the future for Turco is unknown, our memories of that game still linger and the emotions that carried us that night still hold true today. Modano was a special hockey player and the savior for the sport in North Texas and we can only hope that he continues to work with the Dallas Stars in some capacity moving forward.
After the jump, my emotional article from last year following that final game of the season as well as videos from that incredible night in April, 2010 and a look back at an incredible career.
The following was published on April 8, 2010 just before Modano's final game at home against Anaheim.
I'm not going to do an exact retrospective on Mike Modano's great career, since we're not even certain he's retiring. If and when he announces his retirement this summer, then we'll take a look at his great numbers and career accomplishments. For now, I'm just going to talk about Mike Modano and my memories of the best player in Stars franchise history as he plays what is likely his final home game tonight against the Anaheim Ducks.
I grew up a Dallas Stars fan, when my family and I worked as volunteers at Reunion Arena in the early 1990′s. It was incredible for me to be able to be so close to the players and the behind the scenes workings of a hockey game, especially since many times we covered the entrance where the players would enter before the games. Shane Churla, Kevin Hatcher, Dave Gagner, Grant Ledyard, Todd Harvey - all players that I was able to get to know off the ice. Mike Modano? Well, he was this mystical figure that everyone was crazy about, and when he acknowledged you with "hi", a pat on the head or a hand shake it was just an incredible feeling.
Of course, it's the memories of Modano on the ice that stand out to me. It's tough to pinpoint very specific moments without looking them up; instead, it's a mashup of nearly 20 years of memories that leave me with just an overall feeling of greatness and the feeling of watching a legend play night in and night out.
The sight of Modano flying effortless across the ice from one end to the other, that Stars jersey flapping in the wind, is the image that will always be in my head when thinking of Modano. I don't know if there's any other player in the NHL that was able to be so much faster than those around him without looking like he was skating that much harder.
Hisability to bury a one timer from anywhere on the ice. It's not exactly at the level that Brett Hull reached in his career, but that was easily Modano's best asset. That smooth, easy and extremely powerful stroke that was deadly accurate is a shot that he still uses to this day, and every time he finds some way to score on a hard shot from a bad angle it brings chills to my skin.
I'll also never forget Modano's backhand shot, an art that seems to be lost these days and one that Modano used to score with from incredible angles. I'll never forget seeing Modano score from near the blue line on an incredibly accurate backhand shot, that painted the upper corner of the net. I don't think I've ever seen a shot quite like that.
His offense and his speed will always be what Modano is known for, but it's his selflessness and his team-first attitude are what I'll remember most. Mike Modano was drafted by the Minnesota North Stars for his incredible offensive ability, yet after the team moved to Dallas and hired Ken Hitchcock as coach the franchise shifted philosophies. The Stars became a defensive team, and asked Modano to take on a more defensive-minded approach. Not only did he embrace the new role but he became perhaps the best wo-way player in the NHL.
Later in his career, he was asked to become a checking line center as his offensive skills and speed declined and fully embraced that role as well. He had the option of leaving Dallas for a more lucrative contract a few years back, but instead took a bit of a discount to stay with the team he's always played for. The incredible line of Brett Hull, Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen will go down as the best line the Stars have ever and likely ever will put on the ice. Modano's playmaking ability perfectly matched with Hull's scoring tough, and Lehtinen rounded it all off with some incredible defensive prowess.
I'll also never forget seeing Mike Modano slam into the boards behind the net after Ruslan Sulei gave him a nice push in the back. He slammed head first into the boards, a sight that immediately looked as though Modano had broken his neck. It's perhaps the most gruesome play I had ever seen in hockey, and seeing Modano lie motionless on the ice as he was strapped into a stretcher made everyone immediately question what life would be like without him on the team. There were tears in the eyes of every Stars fan that night.
It's tough to imagine the Dallas Stars taking the ice without Mike Modano on the team. He's been the face of the franchise for so long, and was the perfect player for the team to have to be able to market the team in Dallas. He helped make hockey into a incredibly popular sport in North Texas and I'm still struggling to think of him not playing with a Stars jersey on his back.
An incredible feature on Mike Modano produced by the Dallas Stars (this video is going to make you break down, guarantee it) :
The rousing ovation for Modano at the end of the 3rd period:
Mike Modano's shootout heroics:
A feature on Modano's affect on hockey in North Texas:
For the sake of nostalgia, Modano highlights from that magical 1998-99 Stanley Cup Season:
You can find many more incredible Mike Modano videos here, including highlights from every year of his career in Dallas.