Texas was just right for Modano

Posted Monday, Oct. 15, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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DALLAS -- In 1993, Mike Modano brought the crazy, northern game of ice hockey to football-mad Texas.

On Monday, hockey came to Texas to honor Modano.

The Plaza of Americas in Dallas hosted the USA Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the 2012 class, including Modano, Eddie Olczyk and Lou Lamoriello.

"It's right up there with being drafted. I think that was one of my goals as a kid and something I didn't understand until I was 16 and 17," Modano said. "Over 23 and 24 years later, you're sitting here and being recognized. It's great, and obviously the longevity and the impact of moving down to Texas and hitting a whole new demographic of fans and people and growing hockey down here -- there's a lot of things to be proud of and some great players along the way that helped me get here, too."

His road to becoming the leader in goals and points for an American-born player began a few miles in from the Canadian border as an outlet for just a little bit too much energy, moving him away from the sport he truly loved at the time -- baseball.

"We went skating one day and my whole demeanor changed, my life and attitude changed, and I wanted to play," Modano said. "That whole thing happened at age 7. We've always to this day thanked our friend who suggested hockey."

Modano was drafted first overall by the Minnesota North Stars in 1988 and would play for the Stars' franchise in Dallas, claiming the team records for most games, goals, assists and points.

The eight-time all-star finished his NHL career with one season for the Detroit Red Wings, his hometown team.

However, beyond the borders of the Lone Star State, Modano led a movement of young players that changed the international perception of American hockey, following the 1980 Miracle on Ice.

"We were so young at the time and we wanted to change what they thought about us, that we didn't belong at their level," Modano said. "We always felt that we wanted to prove to a lot of countries that we could play with them."

Over the next three decades, Modano, with USA Hockey, took gold in the 1996 World Cup and silver in the 2002 Olympic Games.

Lamoriello, general manager of the New Jersey Devils, was picked for induction in part for his work as general manager of that 1996 gold-medal team.

Olczyk, the current lead analyst for NBC's NHL coverage, was an NHL standout who played for six organizations in his 16-year career. He was a teammate of Modano's on several Team USA squads in the '90s.

"I'm extremely honored to go in with two guys I know extremely well," Olczyk said "To go in with the greatest American-born scorer in the National Hockey League speaks volumes."

With all the national and international acclaim sent Modano's way Monday, it was the football town-turned-hockey city that he thanked for helping him become a Hall of Famer.

"It's been a relationship I've loved with the fans and the people and the city," Modano said. "I felt that the day I got off the plane here, that this could be real exciting and unique at the same time."

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Don Fehr were scheduled to be in Dallas on Monday for the Hall of Fame induction dinner, but canceled earlier in the day to prepare for continued labor negotiations set for today, USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean announced at the dinner.

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