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Pacific: Call from President awes Modano

by Doug Ward

The Stars' Mike Modano received a
congratulatory phone call from President George W. Bush last week after setting a
new points record for U.S.-born players.
Unofficially, Mike Modano long has been considered the most spectacular American-born NHL player. The Livonia, Mich., native made it official last week, becoming the highest scoring United States native in NHL history by netting two goals in a 3-1 win at San Jose.

The goals gave Modano 1,233 career points, surpassing the previous record of 1,232, established by offensive-minded defenseman Phil Housley.

A day after seeing his record broken, Housley rang Modano up with a congratulatory phone call from his Minnesota home. Modano also heard from United States President George W. Bush and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

“It is an incredible honor and it really means the world to me to receive his (Bush’s) call,” Modano told the Stars’ Web site. “I really felt the need to thank him for taking time out of his busy, intense schedule to call me. Obviously, there are more important things going on in the world right now, so it really was special. It was definitely the perfect topper to all the celebration of this record.”

The two Texans chatted for more than five minutes about his career and his achievement, and Bush expressed an interest in meeting Modano in person, either in Dallas or on the club’s next trip to Washington. According to Modano, Bush seemed genuinely excited about his achievement and wished him continued good luck in his career, personally and as a team.

“As soon as we hung up, I was calling lots of people telling them that I just spoke to the President,” said Modano, whose wife, entertainer Willa Ford, was with him when the call came. “I had to call my friends and family and share this experience with them. For him to take five minutes to call me means more than anything.”


San Jose’s Jeremy Roenick — a Boston native who scored his 500th goal Saturday — called Modano the “greatest player to come out of America,” in a between-periods interview shortly after the two record-shattering goals. Roenick, meanwhile, has himself been hot, picking up five points in his last five games. Roenick has 1,180 career points, just 55 fewer than Modano.

Accolades and achievements are nothing new to Modano. He has played in six All-Star games, won a Stanley Cup and earned a silver medal in the 2002 Olympics over the course of his 18-year career.

Modano admitted his pursuit of Housley was more drawn out than he would have preferred – not that it ended up as a bad thing.

“The longer it was drawn out,” the 37-year-old Modano said, “the more it kind of forced me to appreciate the situation.”

Modano’s pursuit took an unlikely twist when he was awarded with an assist on Halloween night that would have tied him with Housley. But after the contest, Modano told the Stars’ staff he did not touch the puck and the mistake was corrected, keeping him one point behind Housley.

Modano has been hot lately, with four points in his last three games. He is not, however, in the midst of a typical season: He has just nine points in the season’s first 17 games, a pace at which he would finish with an un-Modano-like 43 points. His record-shattering performance, however, was vintage.

To break Housley’s mark, Modano scored goals on his first two shots of the night against San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. The first came on a slap shot, the second on a breakaway, and by the 4:24 mark of the first period, Modano had his record.

“What he has meant to hockey in the United States goes without saying,” Dallas coach Dave Tippett said.

Like Modano, the Stars (7-7-3, 17 points) have struggled to find their game this season. Their most recent misstep came Saturday night in Los Angeles when they blew a 4-0 third-period lead over the Kings, dropping 6-5 decision in overtime.


Back on skates -- Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer has resumed skating in a Westminster, Calif., rink, heightening speculation that he will be back in the Ducks’ lineup before Christmas.

“No decision has been made,” Niedermayer told the Orange County Register’s Dan Wood. “There is no change in anything right now, other than the fact I’m skating. When the decision does come, if it is to go back and play, I’m a little bit closer.”

Niedermayer’s presence would go a long way toward shoring up a defense that allowed 49 goals in the first 18 games of the year, 19th in the NHL.

Dallas last stop for Lindros -- Eric Lindros announced his retirement last week, meaning his 13-year career wrapped up last season when he had five goals in 49 games in a Stars uniform.

Lindros, it safely can be said, won’t be remembered as a Dallas Star. His legacy will be tough to pinpoint. Lindros entered the NHL in 1991 with great expectations, and went on to win the Hart Trophy in 1995, and led the Flyers to the 1997 Stanley Cup Final. Lindros’ era of dominance was cut short by a series of concussions.

Lindros also will be remembered as a victim of the hype machine. He arrived as “The Next One,” and is departing as just another very good one. After stops in Philadelphia, plus stints with the New York Rangers, Toronto, and Dallas, he leaves with 372 goals and 865 points, comparable to the 395 goals and 694 points that got power forward Cam Neely into the Hall of Fame.


Who’s hot -- Heading into play Monday night, Steven Reinprecht of the Coyotes has seven points (four goals, three assists) in his last three games; teammate Peter Mueller has six points (three goals, three assists) in three games. Meanwhile, Coyote goaltender Mikael Tellqvist is 2-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and .967 save percentage in his last two outings. ... Anaheim’s Mathieu Schneider has four points (one goal, three assists) in his last two games; teammate Chris Pronger has six assists in four games. ... San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov is 1-0-1 with a 1.44 GAA in his last two appearances prior to Monday’s game with Phoenix.

Not hot -- Anaheim defenseman Francois Beauchemin is scoreless in 10 games while posting a minus-6 rating. ... Rob Blake of the Kings has struggled this season and has not scored a point in five games.

The week ahead -- The Ducks and Kings meet up in a home-and-home series that opens Tuesday in Anaheim and concludes Thursday in Los Angeles.

Kings coach Marc Crawford said the most intense rivalry he has been involved with was Colorado against Detroit when he was coaching the Avs. The Kings-Ducks rivalry, he said, is beginning to take on many of the earmarks of that classic feud.

“I saw a lot of the emotions that you saw in (the Colorado-Detroit rivalry) here in the rivalry between the two cross-town teams,” said Crawford, now in his second year with the Kings. “This is the first time that I have (been involved in) a rivalry with a cross-town team. I think that adds a little bit to it, because you get the same media personalities talking about the teams and they’ve got their favorites. The players socialize with each other in the off-season. There are lots of good friends on the two teams, but that all ends when the puck gets dropped.”

Then there’s the fact that the Ducks currently posses something the Kings have not been able claim since joining the league in 1967.

“The Stanley Cup angle of it, with the Ducks having won,” Crawford said, “adds something to it, as well.”



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