Mac Engel

Mike Modano without Dallas Stars is a sad reality

Former Dallas Stars player Mike Modano waves to the crowd during a jersey retirement ceremony in 2014.
Former Dallas Stars player Mike Modano waves to the crowd during a jersey retirement ceremony in 2014. AP

Much like Nolan Ryan and the Texas Rangers, Mike Modano needs to come back to the Dallas Stars. Neither will be happening any time soon, but for vastly different reasons.

Both franchises squeezed every ounce of marketability out of each and yet neither lives in town nor has any active relationship with their club.

What the Stars learned with Modano the Rangers did with Nolan: When it comes to the hiring of a franchise legend, the only good way to handle his exit is on his terms.

If there ever were a time Modano should be in town, it’s Thursday, and yet he’s at home in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“I never thought in a million years I would be talking from Scottsdale, or wherever, other than Dallas. It’s crazy, isn’t it?” Modano said in a phone interview.

As the Stars host Minnesota’s “new” team in the first round of the NHL playoffs, the player who made so much of the franchise’s transition to Texas easier and better finds himself without a hockey home.

While the evolution of Modano’s life is surprising, the development of his relationship with the Dallas Stars is simply disappointing. Unlike the Rangers with Nolan, where there clearly is fault, the Stars’ status with Mo’ is a matter of logistics.

The Stars should always be open to the player who was a willing and able face of their franchise to a community that had never seen NHL hockey when it relocated here from Minnesota in 1993.

And at some point someone within the Rangers needs to reach out to Nolan and try to mend the understandably hurt feelings stemming from his departure after the 2013 season. That means either co-owners Ray Davis or Bob Simpson or general manager Jon Daniels need to make that call.

Even if you fall on the side of GM Jon Daniels in the squabble over who should have final say in personnel matters, Nolan Ryan is still Nolan Ryan.

It’s been three years and there is no reason to have any ill will toward Nolan. The Rangers have a statue of the guy. He’s 69, not getting any younger, and the last memories of Nolan Ryan as a Ranger are him cleaning out his desk during non-business hours.

Once one of his sport’s most celebrated bachelors, Modano is now married with 2-year-old twins. His wife is expecting their third child soon.

Modano actually lives a few houses down from former Dallas Stars head coach Dave Tippett, who has been the man in charge of the Arizona Coyotes since 2009.

Modano does not sound unhappy; the contrary, he plays golf, chases kids and loves the slower desert life. Underneath there is an itch to re-enter the game.

After he retired from the NHL in 2011, Modano was hired by the Stars. He did not want to scout, coach or manage, but the chance to be Mike Modano with fans and potential sponsors worked. Basically, Modano was a closer with corporate accounts.

When Modano and his wife bought a house in Arizona, the plan to was to split time between the areas. Then the couple decided to live in Scottsdale full time.

For Stars team owner Tom Gaglardi and team president Jim Lites, that was not going to work.

“They didn’t feel like it was beneficial to keep me around if I was not living in Dallas,” Modano said. “That was their decision. I was willing to come back and do events and however they wanted to use me. They decided it wasn’t good.

“I was a little upset about it. It should not have mattered where I live. There are a lot of guys who are involved in organizations that don’t live in that city. I thought it could work. It’s only a two-hour flight and Allison was cool with that. That was my thought.”

Modano is right: pro sports are loaded with guys who do not live in a city they contribute to in some capacity. But those guys normally scout or contribute for the minor league teams.

Modano had to be in town for the role they designed for him.

“I want to be real clear on this: we love Mike Modano and there are no hard feelings on our part whatsoever,” Lites said. “He made a decision for his family and we totally support and get that. If he wants to come back, he is always, always welcomed back. We just need him to be here in Dallas.”

Modano is caught up in the common challenge of not having enough hours in a day; of wanting to spend time with his kids, friends, his spouse and to have a career as well. Join the club.

He is also uncertain what exactly he wants to do in an official capacity when he does return.

The break between Modano and the Stars has been beneficial; it forced the franchise to finally move away from the era that had defined the team’s existence here. For a while the Stars clung to it because there was nothing else to sell.

Now there is and the team is marketing its new faces, most notably All-Star Jamie Benn.

Neither Modano nor the Stars is wrong but, for now, the relationship doesn’t work.

Nolan’s problems with the Rangers are well-documented, but this needs to be fixed.

Both men are in their sport’s Hall of Fame, Modano as a Star and Ryan as a Ranger. For neither of them to have any visible presence with their teams might be justified, but it is undoubtedly sad and some of it can certainly be fixed.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram