Decades ago, a young boy from suburban Detroit turned to organized hockey to curb troublemaking tendencies.
Saturday, as he watched his iconic No. 9 rise to the rafters of American Airlines Center, Mike Modano fit right in with Dallas’ most legendary athletes.
At the end of a ceremony honoring Modano for his two-decade tenure playing for the Stars organization, Modano was joined by former Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach, former Texas Ranger Michael Young and current and former Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki and Rolando Blackman as the event came to an end with the exclamation point of Modano’s banner-raising.
“The fans, and having ... Troy and Roger and Dirk and those guys — it certainly put a great touch to it, but the team and Tom [Gaglardi] just went total first-class on this whole thing all weekend. It’s been a lot of fun, seeing a lot of those guys and reminiscing.”
The event was nostalgic for Modano and Stars fans alike.
After an array of special guests walked the “Victory Green” carpet outside AAC before the ceremony, a Stars-record crowd of 19,109 fans were transported back to 1999 with a sepia-toned video narrated by Modano and set to a string quartet rendition of the Metallica song Nothing Else Matters — the anthem of that ’99 Stanley Cup winning team.
A circular curtain fell from the overhanging scoreboard, revealing a stage with the majority of the ’99 team in the black-and-green jerseys worn in that series-clinching Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
“It’s just like yesterday, we’re all together, just pick up right where we left off,” Modano said. “Some of the things we talk about, some of the stories, some of the guys’ personalities, it’s so much fun. We had such a good team, chemistry, personality-wise. It’s rare. It just doesn’t happen very often. For about seven years there, we were just really tight personalities, a wide range of personalities, but [our] chemistry couldn’t be beat on the ice.”
A procession onto the ice began with Stars executives: general manager Jim Nill, owner Tom Gaglardi, assistant general manager Les Jackson and president Jim Lites. Former owners Norm Green and Tom Hicks joined the group, with both cheers and boos raining down on Hicks.
Among those gathered in seats below the stage at center ice was former Stars assistant coach Rick Wilson, to whom the most emotional part of Modano’s speech was aimed.
“He meant the world to me in my career and my life.” Modano said of Wilson. “Coming to Detroit when I was 15, taking me off to Canada and play. It certainly wasn’t on my list being 15 in Detroit. I really thought I’d stick around and go off to college at some point, play hockey up there. But he was instrumental in a lot of things in my life, in getting me to Canada. I did the math, maybe 30 years I’ve known the guy. Yeah, when it came around to him, I knew I’d have some trouble.”
Finally, front and center were those most responsible for Saturday night’s event, his parents, Mike and Karen Modano.
The moment the two were brought up in Modano’s speech, the Modanos received an ovation from not only the fans, but from every member of the ’99 team and both current rosters of Stars and the Minnesota Wild, watching from the benches.
The sacrifice his parents made for him to succeed in hockey especially hit home Saturday, as he is due to be a father of twins with his wife, Allison, soon.
“[My parents] worked and they did things to allow me to play hockey,” Modano said. “That’s what they woke up and did every day, so there’s a lot of respect for that now that I know what’s ahead of me and what we’re going to be going through. I look forward to [parenting]. It’s going to be fun. My guess is [they’ll] probably grow up and play hockey.”
Modano himself defines his career by the impact he made on the sport of hockey in North Texas, and members of that ’99 team believe as long as there are Stars fans in Dallas, Modano’s legacy lives on.
“All you have to do is look around [at the crowd] … that’s what he was,” former Stars defenseman Craig Ludwig said.