DALLAS -- Mike Modano
was put in a rather peculiar position prior to joining his Detroit Red Wings
teammates for their afternoon skate at American Airlines Center.
For the first time in almost two decades, he was gearing up in the visitor's locker room. So, how did it go Mike?
"It was a little bit strange," Modano said. "I've never been in there, so I was little lost at times finding where to go. But I'm sure I'll get that figured out before tonight (8:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) and try to stay calm and take some deep breaths to get through it."
Prior to signing a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the Wings in the offseason, Modano spent the previous 16 playing in Dallas, plus the four previous seasons with the Minnesota North Stars prior to their relocation to the Lone Star State following the 1992-93 season.
Modano would establish a lasting legacy with the Stars, setting franchise records for most regular-season and playoff goals (557, 58), most assists (802, 87), most points (1,359, 145) and games played (1,459, 174).
"I'm a little bit anxious over what type of reception I'll get. Obviously, I've had a lot of great moments here and spent a big chunk of my life here … almost half of it. I've had meaningful experiences with the fans and the teams here, trying to build the game of hockey in Texas and not simply Dallas alone. I think it'll be a warm reception for a little until they see the Wings." -- Mike Modano
He was an eight-time All-Star and a Stanley Cup champion. He helped provide sports-crazed Dallas fans an alternative to the Dallas Cowboys.
"When we got to Dallas, I was trying to market the game to people who weren't as knowledgeable," Modano said. "I think that was the challenging part coming from Minnesota, one of the hottest hotbeds for hockey in the nation. But people were turned on to it. It was a spectator sport at the start and we just tried to get people into the building. We felt they enjoyed all the excitement, the speed and aggressiveness, but over time, I think they began to appreciate the skill and talent as well. Eventually we did that and became a consistent team for 8-10 years. People latched on and we built a strong fan base."
He'll find out right away just how thankful the fans of Dallas are since Detroit coach Mike Babcock intends to have Modano's line, with Dan Cleary and Jiri Hudler
, on the ice to open the game. He'll stand along the visitor's blue line during the National Anthem in what surely will be a surreal moment.
"I'm a little bit anxious over what type of reception I'll get," Modano, 40, said. "Obviously, I've had a lot of great moments here and spent a big chunk of my life here … almost half of it. I've had meaningful experiences with the fans and the teams here, trying to build the game of hockey in Texas and not simply Dallas alone. I think it'll be a warm reception for a little until they see the Wings. But, the thing is, every time we played Detroit when I was in Dallas, half the building was red."
Dallas captain Brenden Morrow
admitted it'll be strange seeing Modano across the ice, wearing opposing colors.
"I'd like to say it's going to be just another hockey game, but that's not the case since this guy had been here for 20 years," Morrow said. "He sold hockey here in Texas, so it's a huge deal and a big homecoming for him. It's going to be weird seeing him in a different uniform, but you have to put that aside and concentrate one shift at a time. For us, Detroit's a team that's had our number so we want to start the season well at home (after opening the season with consecutive road victories)."
Modano, of course, is regarded as one of the greatest U.S.-born players, holding all-time marks in career goals (558) and points (1,360), and playoff points (145) by a player born in the United States.
Morrow, who leads the Stars with 3 goals, is sure a warm welcome awaits Modano on Thursday.
"I can't imagine there will be a whole lot of (booing)," Morrow said. "I think if he scores it'll probably rival the amount of noise that goes off when we score. The fans have a lot of good memories of Mike and he didn't go on his own terms, so it's not like he shunned the team and took off. I think the reception will be well received."
While Modano is excited to have the chance to create new memories with his new team, he certainly didn't rule out a possible return to Dallas if the team ever extended the invitation.
"I'll retire eventually, but for now I'm here in Detroit and let's see where that takes me," Modano said. "When that time came, would I come back? Possibly, if that option is available and offered to me, I think I would seriously consider it. This town has meant a lot and the people here have been great. I've created a lot of relationships over the years that I still have to this day. I would definitely think about it if that option came up."
Dallas coach Marc Crawford
wishes Modano much success -- except Thursday.
"It's a big night for our guys and the fans in Dallas," he said. "They want to recognize a guy who's been the face of the franchise for so many years. Most of all, for Mike, he'll have to deal with a lot of emotions. He got to play in Minnesota in his final game as a Dallas Star last year (a 4-3 shootout victory April 10), and there was no better scenario than that. We wish him well every night, except tonight."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale