Getting traded can be one of the most challenging times for a professional athlete and when word of a deal caught up to Jaroslav Modry last spring while his Dallas Stars were in Tampa to play the Lightning, the defenseman was stunned, disoriented and a little disappointed.
“First, you’re in shock,” Modry says. “I was about to walk to the game in Tampa Bay and someone from the Stars came up to me and said, ‘We just traded you at the last few seconds of the trading deadline.’ Then you start to wonder about the details; who you were traded for and what the circumstances are.”
Packing up your family and moving to a new city is never easy, but when Modry heard the details of the deal, it began to feel like he was coming home.
“Los Angeles just feels like home,” Modry says. “Then, I found out I was traded for Matty Norstrom and you need a few days to digest that.”
How often does a player get traded for another player who has been a role model for much of his career? Modry was inspired by Norstrom’s work ethic and leadership skills when the two were teammates with the Kings from 1999-2004.
“Matty was a great person and his work ethic was outstanding,” Modry says. “It really rubbed off on the guys in the best possible way. Later on in his career, we voted him as captain and that was a big step for him. He really took it to the next level as a leader and he was both a great person and a great leader.”
Today, the 36-year-old Modry exhibits many of the traits that made Norstrom one of the great captains in Kings’ history.
“Being traded means you have to change teams again,” Modry says, “but I just said, ‘I’m going to enjoy every day that I get to play and show them what I can do for this club. I want to be a good influence for the young kids. I want to be a leader and a good teammate.”
A native of the Czech Republic, Modry was originally drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the ninth round (179th overall) of the 1990 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut in 1993-94, playing in 41 games for the Devils. After appearing in 11 games for New Jersey in 1994-95, he was dealt to Ottawa, where he played in 64 games for the 1995-96 Senators.
But it wasn’t until Modry arrived in Los Angeles that he got his first real chance to prove himself as an NHL player. He made the most of that opportunity by developing into an All-Star. As such, Los Angeles will always hold a special place in Modry’s heart.
“All my kids were born out here,” Modry says. “My career breakthrough came out here for the Kings, and I battled hard to get my position and playing time. It was fun and I still remember those times fondly. Now, I’m going to try to continue and enjoy the later stages of my career in Los Angeles.”
Modry and his family moved back into the same South Bay neighborhood they called home on their first pass through town.
“We live really close to where we used to live because it’s really convenient for the family,” Modry says. “We have friends out here from the past and started schools out here, so it’s really exciting for them. My wife really likes it here, so it’s been a really easy transition for us.”
Fittingly, Modry made his NHL All-Star Game debut in 2002, the year the contest was played at STAPLES Center. “It was one of the highlights of my career,” Modry says. “It was rewarding, especially after all the work I did. It was something special; I played with the top players in the league and had a great weekend. It was fun to be a part of it, especially because it was in Los Angeles.”
Now, Modry would like to help some of his young teammates reach that level while helping the Kings return to the playoffs. Modry became an unrestricted free agent last summer, but after playing in 19 games for the Kings last season, he knew he wanted to be a part of the club’s rebuilding process, so he signed a one-year contract with the club during the off-season.
“I liked the direction this team is heading,” Modry says. “I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”
Modry knows something else. There’s no place like home.
Written by Doug Ward and originally printed in Royal Reign.