DETROIT – Not only did Mike Modano get his career started in Detroit with the Little Caesars hockey program, his wife, Willa Ford, did as well.
“So when he said Detroit, I said, ‘I look good in red,’” said Ford, who’s first hit single, “I Wanna Be Bad” debut on a Detroit pop radio station in 2001.
“When I first came out as a singer, 93.1 WDRQ is the first radio station that ever broke me,” said Ford, who was born Mandy Williford, and married Modano in August, 2007. “They were the first station to play me, and the first station to put me into rotation. So Detroit actually started my career.”
Although Ford and Modano have made names for themselves in completely different careers — he is a professional athlete, she is an entertainer, who has found success as a singer and an actress — they have been extremely supportive of each other.
“I would never want someone to tell me (what to do) in my career,” said Ford, 29. “He’s never told me, ‘you can’ or ‘you can’t,’ and he’s always been really supportive, so we have that in common. He wants me to relish in what I do, and I want him to do the same thing. So if he wanted to play hockey, I want him to play.”
Modano had to decide if he still had the drive to continue playing a high-level of hockey at age 40, and if he should leave the city of Dallas and the team he has spent his entire 20-year career with. So he needed his wife’s support before making any big decisions.
“I needed to talk to the wife first and foremost,” he said. “She obviously spends a lot of time away from home as well, so I needed to make sure she was excited about it, and she was probably the No. 1 fan pushing me towards playing.”
She gave him that support, wholeheartedly.
“Up until the day before he texted (Wings general manager Ken Holland) and made the decision, he was still pondering,” she said. “And I just looked at him and said, ‘I have a really good feeling about it. I feel like you really have to do this.’ He’s like, ‘Alright, let’s do it.’”
Ford wanted Modano to keep doing what he loved, and to have the chance to play in front of his family, who still resides in suburban Detroit. Due to their schedules that have them working on holidays, the pair hasn’t been able to visit Modano’s relatives as a couple since the NHL lockout in 2004-05.
“I’m so excited for him and for his family and his parents,” she said. “We’ve been so far away for his mother to travel. To get to see him play, she deserves that after all those years she probably toted those (hockey) bags around before they had wheels.”
The pair has already begun looking for homes in the area, and Ford is hopeful that she will be able to find work locally.
While she spends the majority of her time in Los Angeles for casting calls, her agents have already begun sending any jobs with Detroit connections her way.
“They’ll be keeping their eye on anything in Detroit,” said Ford, who starred on “Dancing with the Stars” in the 2006 season. “I’ve been really fortunate in the past to actually shoot where (Modano) was sometimes, so if that happened it would be awesome.”
Ford had a feeling Detroit is the right fit for her husband, and she plans to watch him as much as possible. She doesn’t want to miss anything.
“I’ll be in and out constantly,” she said. “But during long home stints, you’ll see me a lot more. I don’t want to miss. Last year, I missed a lot of his games, but I don’t think I really want to miss a lot of this, I think it’s going to be exciting this year.”