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Stars retire Mike Modano's No. 9

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- Dallas Stars franchise icon Mike Modano saw his No. 9 raised to the rafters in an emotional ceremony at American Airlines Center prior to the game Saturday against the Minnesota Wild.

Modano, the No. 1 pick of the Minnesota North Stars at the 1988 NHL Draft, finished his NHL career as the all-time leader in goals and points among American-born players. He played his final season in 2010-11 with the Detroit Red Wings after playing his first 20 seasons in the Stars organization, the first four in Minnesota and the final 16 in Dallas.

Modano was a key member of the Stars' 1999 NHL Stanley Cup championship team and was instrumental in helping to grow hockey in the Dallas area. He was flanked onstage Saturday night by members of the '99 Cup team, a group that included Hall of Fame goaltender Eddie Belfour.

"I can't tell you what a big honor it is to be here tonight," said Modano, who now serves as the Stars' executive advisor and alternate governor.

Modano is the fourth player in franchise history to have his number retired, joining Neal Broten, who also played in Minnesota and Dallas, and Bill Goldsworthy and Bill Masterton. Members of the Goldsworthy and Masterton families attended the ceremony, as did Broten.

The ceremony opened with a video that chronicled Modano's career with the franchise.

Once his remarks concluded, Modano made his way off the stage, where he was greeted by a group of Dallas sports personalities, including former Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach, Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki and former Texas Rangers infielder Michael Young.

After exchanging pleasantries with them, Modano made his way to his banner as it was slowly raised to the top of the arena over the south-end goal.

"It's hard to say what that means (that no one else in this organization will wear No. 9)," Modano said. "I think being here for so long, since '88 with pretty much one team, it certainly adds that legacy a little bit. But certainly the impact in two cities, two states, for hockey certainly meant a lot as well."

Prior to the start of the ceremony, Modano's former teammates and other guests made their way into the arena across a green carpet.

One of those VIPs was former Dallas teammate Brett Hull.

"It's a tribute to him, and everything he's done and deserved is coming to fruition tonight with his jersey in the rafters," Hull said. "He's going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. And I said today, if he's not, take my stuff out. If he doesn't deserve to be in there first ballot, no one does. Except for (Wayne) Gretzky, I guess."

Modano got emotional several times during his remarks to the crowd. He knew before the ceremony that his emotions would get the better of him at some point during the approximately 60-minute event.

"Yeah, I think the hard part was waiting in the tunnel underneath," Modano said afterward. "You know it was tough because we were all waiting under there, and it just kind of hit me that those guys were all Cup team out there. I knew I'd have a hard time getting going and once it got to that point, it felt OK."

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