Mike Modano Deserves to Go Out on Top, on His Terms
For the rest, so what if all those YouTube videos labeled "Modano's Last Game in Dallas" and "Modano's Curtain Call in Minnesota" don't quite tug at the heartstrings like they did in April? Mike Modano is going home to play hockey for the Red Wings. Very, very good for him.
The 40-year-old center confirmed with a text -- "Big announcement!" he sent earlier in the week to the Detroit Free Press -- that retirement as a player has been put on hold. While he listened to overtures from the Minnesota Wild and the San Jose Sharks, the future Hall of Famer will don the only jersey there was truly left for him to wear: the winged wheel of Detroit's Original Six franchise. He'll return from a golfing trip in Scotland with buddies on Thursday in order to prepare for his first day as a Red Wing.
While this may hurt the die-hards of the Dallas Stars, if they truly love Modano, they will set him free. Despite what now may seem like an awkward curtain call when he waved goodbye and received a few lengthy standing ovations in the Stars' season finale in April, he's not done. That's a decision only Mike Modano gets to make. Turns out he was only waving goodbye to Dallas.
Of course, what brings a lot of pain to this story for many of Modano's fans is his destination. They may be thinking, "Why does it have to be Detroit?" But the reality for Modano is that it had to be Detroit. He is from the city's suburbs. His parents still live there. Modano is not going to a rebuilding team, but rather -- for the last 15 years -- an always-contending team.
Whether he gets to center the second or third line doesn't matter. The Red Wings' third line, expected to include the returning Jiri Hudler, will be better than the third lines of half the teams in the NHL. If Modano had 30 points in 59 games with a thin Stars club last season, he's capable of between 40-50 in a full season with the Red Wings. Just as crucially, Modano does not have to be the face of the franchise, as he has been for the entirety of his career in Minnesota and Dallas. At age 40, in a Detroit locker room jam-packed with world-class talents, big personalities and respected leaders, Modano will get to be one of the boys.
He deserves to go out this way, near his Michigan hometown, possibly as a champion. With 1,359 points in 1,459 games, he is No. 1 on the all-time NHL scoring chart among United States-born players. He has been an all-star player, admired leader, Stanley Cup champion and U.S. Olympian of unassailable character. As that face of his franchise for two decades, he wore it well.
Dallas could have retained him as a player, but chose not to. This was a difficult decision, but the right one for a rebuilding hockey club by general manager Joe Nieuwendyk. There was also some talk of Modano becoming part of an ownership group in Dallas. It wasn't in the stars.
Neither was Modano retiring after playing his whole career with the Minnesota/Dallas franchise. "Say It Ain't So, Mo," it said on a fan's banner at Modano's last game as a Star in Dallas four months ago. It ain't so. Modano is back, just in a different jersey. A lot of people will find it easy to root for him.