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Tapped In: Modano looks back at legacy

by Kathryn Tappen

Mike Modano needs no introduction in the hockey world. He is the all-time goal-scoring and points leader among American-born players in the NHL. Modano, the third child and only son of Michael Sr. and Karen Modano, was born and raised in Michigan. His records speak for themselves, most notably his 1999 Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars, and his silver in the 2002 Winter Olympics and championship at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. Off the ice and away from hockey, Modano is an ambassador in the community and is about to take on the biggest role of his life.

Kathryn Tappen: Congratulations! You and your wife Allison (professional golfer Allison Micheletti, daughter of former NHL player and MSG TV analyst Joe Micheletti) are expecting twins in July! How are preparations going?

Mike Modano: It's a work in progress. Trying to get prepared, get the rooms ready. We still have some time before the end of July to get everything ready. We will be real fine-tuned by then. It's exciting. It's another chapter to look forward to for myself and us. We can't wait to meet them.

KT: Your father-in-law jokingly told me last summer he was disappointed he's not going to be the best hockey player in the family anymore.

MM: [laughs] Oh… man. Well. He took a little time to warm up to our relationship in the beginning. But he's great. He and his wife Kathy, their family, they are so wonderful. We are so lucky to have them.

KT: You're an avid golfer, but who is better you or Allison?

MM: She's got some pretty good game. She's a little mentally stronger than I am. She thinks it out, she's got a great feel for the game. She has the talent and is very consistent. We have some pretty good grudge matches. She doesn't give me any strokes, she's very competitive. I don't get any handouts. We love golf; we met on the golf course playing in Florida. It's something we both love doing, waking up, play a little golf, spend our day out there.

KT: How is your game these days?

Mike Modano's on ice accolades speak for themself. The Dallas Stars will honor him by retiring his number. (Photo: Getty Images)

MM: It's been really good since hockey got out of the way! I'm playing quite a bit. I love playing, practicing, playing in some tournaments here and in Europe. It was a tough winter to play, but I'm looking forward to the spring and getting out there. Thank God it's one of those hobbies that takes up a big chunk of my day!

KT: Any chance we'll see you go pro on the PGA Tour?

MM: [laughs] I think that's in my fairy tale world. I'd love to do that! For the time being, I think I'll just enjoy the member-guest tour!

KT: What's your favorite course to play?

MM: I'm a big fan of Scottsdale. I love Arizona, love the desert, love that type of golf course. You can't rule out Carmel and Monterey, and the whole Pebble Beach area. It's one of the most gorgeous spots in the world.

KT: What's the lowest score you've ever shot?

MM: My lowest score, was probably a 66 one day. It's funny, you have one of those once every six or seven years, but to be a pro you have to roll out of the bad side of bed and shoot a 66 so … that's the difference between us and pros.

KT: Any holes in one?

MM: You know I've never had one. I've put it in the leather, and inside the grip a couple of times, but I'm still waiting for that one.

KT: Take me back to Draft Day 1988. What do you remember about that day?

MM: I remember being in Montreal and the excitement leading up to it. I woke up and had breakfast with the family and was so nervous just getting ready for the day. We headed over to the Forum and I remember just sitting there and waiting. We didn't know who Minnesota at the time was going to pick. They left it up to the last minute because they wanted it to be a surprise. It was. Right up until that moment when they announced the first pick we had no idea. But once it happened, it was so exciting, a dream come true for sure.

KT: Fast forward now; your career spans 21 seasons in the NHL, and your resume highlights that you are the all-time goal-scoring and points leader among American-born players. What does that honor mean to you?

MM: It's hard to say. It wasn't something on the radar for quite some time until my last couple of years playing hockey. I knew that I had a few years left, and I was looking at numbers and where I was on the list with other players. I always thought the numbers were attainable if I kept playing and had some decent years. It was a little bit of added motivation for me. I wanted to have closure at the end of my career, and chasing those numbers was a part of that. It was a lot of fun leading up to it, the chase. It wasn't something that was first sought out, but being around for such a long time, I got close to those numbers of Joey Mullen and Phil Housley.

KT: How difficult was it for you to decide to hang up the skates?

MM: Really hard. I felt I wanted to stay in Dallas. I wanted to have one more year with the Stars, but they wanted to go in a different direction. I figured that was it. But then the Wings came calling; Ken Holland and Mike Babcock offered me a chance to come there for a year and play in front of the family and friends. To play where I grew up and for a franchise like the Wings, it was a lot of fun. It got me excited for one more year at home. I knew then it was my last year and it was a lot of fun.

KT: What were some of your fondest memories as a player?

MM: I think those Stanley Cup runs we had, even back in Minnesota in 1991 with the North Stars, a 16th-seed team that made it all the way to the Finals and beat some of the favorites along the way. Those runs were a ton of fun, ‘99 and 2000. The town became so electric and so excited about playoff hockey here in town. I've never seen anything quite like it. The Olympic experiences were high up there. The World Cup in 1996 was a great tournament. But I still say those Cup years are right up there as the best of my career.

KT: Who was the greatest player you played with?

MM: It's so tough, there were so many greats. But I wish I had more years with Brett Hull. Having just three with him just didn't seem to do it justice. I would have loved to have eight, nine, 10 years with Brett Hull just to think about what we could have accomplished. It's a toss-up between him, Jere Lehtinen, and Sergei Zubov.

KT: Who was the hardest player you had to play against?

MM: Scott Stevens. He was so tough, nasty, dirty, he let you know he was there. I always knew I was going to be out there against him every time. He just made life difficult for me.

KT: How closely do you keep an eye on the game today?

MM: I still enjoy it. I still enjoy watching some games, certain teams, certain players I keep track of. I am still connected and involved with the team here in Dallas so I see a lot of the home games. That allows me to also see the teams who come in and out of Dallas.

KT: What is your role with the Stars?

MM: I am involved in the business side of the organization. We are trying to get more of the local businesses involved in the franchise, get the people back and excited about the Stars future. We are trying to get the fans back and excited about hockey again.

KT: Tell me about the Mike Modano Foundation.

MM: It's been ongoing for about 14 years now. We broadened our objectives to expand to Wounded Warriors and little canine rescue. Those two have been important in the last half dozen years to us. We try to make life easier for our soldiers when they come back from serving our country. With canine rescue, since I'm a big dog lover, we try to help where we can there. The foundation provides support and assistance to other various organizations, programs and projects including helping children. We try to provide a positive influence for the soldiers, children, canines, in any way we can.

KT: Your jersey will be retired on Saturday night in Dallas. I remember your retirement press conference was very emotional. Are you prepared for Saturday?

MM: I don't know if it would be as tough as the retirement. The retirement was officially walking away from the game, saying good bye. The jersey retirement is more of a celebration of the impact I made on Minnesota and Dallas. I hope it goes smoother than my retirement announcement did, but you never know. With all the people that are expected to come back, all the former coaches and players that were a big part of my career, I'm sure seeing them and being out there with them will make it all easier. But it could also work against me where once I see them there, it might bring back a lot of emotions and memories that we all had together.

KT: Well I wish you the best on Saturday, congratulations, we look forward to watching.

MM: Thanks so much.

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