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All-time U.S. scoring champ Modano retires

by Adam Kimelman
Mike Modano, the highest-scoring U.S.-born player in NHL history, formally announced his retirement Friday after 21 seasons.

Modano spent 20 of those 21 seasons with the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise.

After a long opening recitation of his career accomplishments by Stars broadcaster Ralph Strangis and a highlight video, general manager Joe Nieuwendyk presented Modano with one final Stars contract for him to sign -- a one-year deal valued at $999,999, a reflection of the No. 9 he made famous -- and a Stars jersey.

"You wonder what this day would be like and it feels pretty overwhelming," Modano said, fighting back tears. "I look back at 21 years with one franchise and I think that's what made me the most proud of anything."

"You wonder what this day would be like and it feels pretty overwhelming. I look back at 21 years with one franchise and I think that's what made me the most proud of anything." -- Mike Modano

Since Modano filed his retirement papers Friday after signing the one-year deal, the contract does not affect the Stars' salary cap.

The first pick of the 1988 Entry Draft, Modano's name is throughout the Stars' record book. He's the franchise's all-time leader in a number of categories, including games played (1,459), goals (557), assists (802) and points (1,359). He's also the franchise's all-time leading playoff scorer, with 145 points in a club-high 174 games.

He's also the all-time leader among U.S.-born players in goals (561) and points (1,374).

In addition to his NHL success, Modano played for the U.S. at three Winter Olympics, two World Cups of Hockey, a Canada Cup and the World Championship. He won a gold medal at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, and a silver medal at the 2002 Olympics.

Modano debuted with the Minnesota North Stars at the start of the 1989-90 season, and had 75 points in 80 games. He credited some of his early teammates for starting him on the road to success.

"My teammates in Minnesota -- Neal Broten, Larry Murphy, Mike Gartner, Brian Bellows, Dennis Maruk," said Modano. "First year there, he (Maruk) gave me his No. 9 jersey. Stew Gavin, my first roommate, he taught me a lot about what it took to be a pro and act like one."

He had 64 points in his second season as the North Stars advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, and then put up back-to-back 33-goal seasons, but after 1992-93 season, the team moved to Dallas.

Modano said his initial reaction to learning of the move was not a good one.

"We heard that in Minnesota and we kind of cringed," Modano said. "We didn't know what to expect in Texas. Certainly, we didn't want to move from Minnesota, where we thought hockey was and is the heartbeat of American hockey. But it was gutsy. We knew people in Dallas didn't know much about hockey."

Thanks to Modano, they learned fast. In his first season in Texas, Modano set single-season franchise records with 50 goals and 96 points and the team advanced to the Western Conference semifinals.

Three years later, the Stars won the first of five straight division titles, and in 1999, he had 23 points in 23 games as the Stars won the franchise's first and only Stanley Cup.

"The pinnacle was '99," Modano said. "It was one of those years. It was Stanley Cup or nothing. We had a team built (for a deep playoff run). Those two runs made a buzz here in Dallas."

He nearly helped the Stars repeat as champion, scoring 23 points and adding 10 goals to lead Dallas back to the Stanley Cup Final in 2000, but they lost to the New Jersey Devils.

Modano was named team captain in 2003, and held the post through the end of the 2005-06 season, when the Stars opted for a youth movement and shifted the captaincy to Brenden Morrow.

As Modano aged, his numbers started to decline, but he also started carving his name deeper into the record books. On March 17, 2007, against the Nashville Predators he scored his 503rd goal, passing Joe Mullen for the all-time lead among U.S.-born players.

Then on Nov. 8, 2007, his first-period goal against the San Jose Sharks gave him 1,233 points, passing Phil Housley for the U.S. scoring record.

Modano had just 14 goals and 30 points in 59 games in 2009-10, and when the Stars refused to offer Modano a contract for the 2010-11 season, the native of Livonia, Mich, opted to return home and signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings.

"To play for the Wings... it was certainly was a thrill," he said.

However, the happy homecoming never really happened, as Modano had three tendons in his right wrist severed in a skate accident in November and missed three months. When he returned in March, he had just two goals and four assists in 18 games, and when the playoffs started, he was a healthy scratch for nine of 11 games.

Modano said he's comfortable with his decision.

"I think there were times (in recent years) I found it difficult to play, certainly motivation, trying to gear up to play every year in the summer," Modano said.

Modano said he had no concrete future plans, mentioning he might do some broadcasting of Stars games this season, and could be involved in a larger role with the team once the ownership situation is settled.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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