March 3, 2014

Mike Modano made No. 9 famous in DFW

The former captain’s jersey will be retired by the Dallas Stars on Saturday.

In the National Hockey League, the No. 9 has been retired by 10 teams, the most of any number.

On Saturday, the NHL will add one more when the Dallas Stars retire Mike Modano’s iconic No. 9 to the rafters of the American Airlines Center.

Modano selected the number that would forever be associated with his name before his second year of organized hockey.

He began his hockey career around age 6, when he selected the number 10 after Guy Lafleur of the Montreal Canadiens. It fell in perfect succession to two of the favorite athletes of Modano’s father, a Boston native: Carl Yastrzemski (8) and Ted Williams (9) of the Red Sox.

But as Modano moved up to a new age group and a new team in his second year of hockey, Modano found the No. 10 was already taken.So as a son of the city of Livonia, a suburb of Detroit, following in the footsteps of Gordie Howe and wearing No. 9 seemed like a good choice.

“Whoever had it before me, whatever team I was going to, left the team or moved on, and it was always available every year. It kind of grew from there,” Modano said.

Modano joins Neal Broten (No. 7), Bill Goldsworthy (No. 8) and Bill Masterton (No. 19) as the only players in Stars franchise history to have their numbers retired.

Before Modano, the No. 9 had a very limited role in the Metroplex. Here’s a look at some Metroplex athletes who wore No. 9 and some other notable athletes with the same number:

Pete O’Brien and Hank Blalock, Texas Rangers

Texas Rangers first baseman Pete O’Brien wore the number for his six seasons (1983-88) in Arlington. In 1986, O’Brien hit 23 home runs with 90 RBIs and finished 17th in American League MVP voting. Hank Blalock holds the franchise record for most years wearing No. 9, seven from 2003-2009. Blalock was a two-time All-Star. In 2004, he had career highs with 32 home runs and 110 RBIs.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Romo is the most recognized No. 9 in Metroplex sports history as the quarterback of America’s Team. The record-setting veteran is a three-time Pro Bowler.

Tatu, Dallas Sidekicks

Tatu also had his number retired as one of the best indoor soccer players to play the arena game. He shared a venue with Modano when both teams called Reunion Arena home. “I think No. 9 is a goal-scoring number,” Tatu said. “It just happened that he wore No. 9 and I wore No. 9. In soccer, No. 9 is the scoring machine and normally puts the balls in the back of the net. It was special that he wore No. 9 and I did also.”

Jae Crowder, Dallas Mavericks

Only four players have worn the number for the Mavericks, all after 2001. The second-year forward wears it now. Crowder has started eight games this season for the Mavericks and is averaging 4.8 points and 17 minutes per game. Who else wore the number for the Mavericks? Try Howard Eisley, Tariq Abdul-Wahad (formerly Olivier Saint-Jean) and Yi Jianlian.

Other notables include:

Sonny Jurgensen, Washington Redskins

A five-time Pro Bowler, Jurgensen played 18 seasons in the NFL, including 11 with Washington, where he gained his greatest fame. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

Bob Pettit, Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks

Pettit played 11 seasons in the NBA and became the first player to score 20,000 points. He was named league MVP twice (1956, and 1959), Hall of Fame (1970) and finished with career averages of 26.4 points and 16.2 rebounds.

Ronaldo, Brazil

Named FIFA’s Player of the Year three times, the forward was the country’s biggest star since Pele. Ronaldo led Brazil to the World Cup title in 2002 and scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Germany. He retired in 2011.

Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox

One of the greatest hitters of all time, Williams batted .406 in 1941. He retired from baseball in 1960 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966. He won baseball’s Triple Crown twice.

Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings

Perhaps the greatest all-around player in the history of hockey, Howe played 32 pro (NHL and WHL) seasons. He scored 1,071 career goals. He was a seven-time MVP and a six-time NHL scoring champion.

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