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Stars great Modano grateful for Gainey's influence

by Shawn Roarke

TORONTO -- As the closing act of the Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony, Mike Modano had the benefit of experiencing the range of emotions encountered by the five inductees who went before him.

So, he knew he might be a bit emotional during his speech. Fortunately referee Bill McCreary, who gave his speech right before Modano, became a bit teary-eyed during his speech, allowing Modano to not be the first to have trouble with his emotions.

"Boy, wow," Modano said seconds after Brett Hull presented him with his Hall of Fame plaque. "Thanks Billy for choking up a little, so I don't look like the only one here crying."

Like McCreary, Modano had the toughest time while thanking his family for their help. He thanked his dad for driving him to tournaments all up and down the 401 highway between Detroit and Toronto. He thanked his mom for making the backyard ice and playing goalie on it when necessary. He also thanked his wife and his twins, a son and daughter, in emotionally charged words.

But before he got to that point, he was able to thank many of the hockey people that shaped his career and praise his fellow inductees.

"It has been hard to put into words what it means to be in the same room with some of the greatest athletes in the world," Modano said. "It is the most humbling thing of my career."

Modano spent the most time detailing the impact Rick Wilson and Bob Gainey had on his career.

Wilson was the man who convinced Modano to leave Michigan for Prince Albert and life in the Western Hockey League. Wilson also spent a lot of time with Modano in the NHL.

"Rick called me when was 16 and asked if I wanted to play hockey in Prince Albert," Modano said. "I put the phone down and told my mom to find out where Prince Albert was. I knew it was in Canada, but I had no idea where. I packed my bags and left for P.A. I can’t tell you how lucky I am to have a guy like Rick Wilson in my life."

Gainey came into Modano's life later and it was not a smooth beginning for the American prodigy and the Canadian legend.

"We were like gas and water, we just didn't mix," Modano said. "He demanded a level of effort I never knew existed."

While they butted heads often in the beginning, Modano finally embraced Gainey's preachings and the results were stunning.

"I trusted him and his vision and there is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful for having him in my life," Modano said.

The pinnacle of that relationship arrived when Modano led the Stars to a Stanley Cup championship in 1999.

"Being able to bring hockey and eventually the Stanley Cup to Dallas and the state of Texas is something I will cherish for the rest of my life," Modano said.

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