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American Veteran

by Dallas Stars Staff / Dallas Stars

Stars center Mike Modano is no stranger to USA Hockey. He's skated in three Olympic games and represented his country on several occasions. Now he is looking to hopefully do it one more time at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver this coming February.

Modano attended The U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Orientation Camp this week in Woodridge, Ill. Overall, the experience was a positive one for Modano.

“The camp was good, it was a lot of fun," he said. "There have obviously been a lot of changes with USA Hockey over the last few years with many new faces. There are a lot of great young players with a lot of upside. A lot of these guys have a really bright future."

Modano is one of the last players left from the "old guard" that played in Nagano, Salt Lake City and Torino, let alone the team that took down Canada in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. Jeremy Roenick, Brett Hull, Tony Amonte, Phil Housley and company are all retired now. At age 39, Modano might have been the oldest player at the camp but he prepared like he has for every other one he has attended.

“I didn't really do much differently than I normally would for a camp like this," Modano said. "I prepared like I always would prepare and went into this camp in decent shape. I think most of the guys are going to push hard to make the team; There’s a lot of pressure on Brian Burke and those guys in picking this team. They have a lot of work to do and there are a lot of players who are worthy of being recognized and making this team."

Many of the faces were new for Modano, mixed in with some familiar ones. The camp was a way to get this new group of young Americans ready for the challenge of 2010 and learn more about one another.

“It’s a young group; the average age is like 22 or 23," Modano said. "We hung out a lot off the ice and got to know each other a little bit and that was good. They are all from familiar areas, some are from Detroit that I know and some others are from Minnesota that were young when I started playing there. Some know of me from watching me over the years but I didn’t know them much until they got to the NHL. It's been fun getting to know them."

Modano has already competed against most of these kids, but that didn't stop some from impressing the face of American hockey.

“There were a handful of kids who really looked good," Modano said. "T.J. Oshie is very talented and skilled, Patrick Kane is just as skilled as I remember, even more so really. David Backes is big and strong and skates well. (Zach) Parise obviously is another great player who has a bright future. There are a lot of quick smaller players with speed."

Overall, the players who will make up USA Hockey both today and in the future has changed. Most believe this group can accomplish a lot of good things and that this is only the beginning.

“These guys are going to be around and together for a long period of time," Modano said. "I think that was probably a bit of the idea of getting them here now, let them grow together and have several opportunities to have success as a group. Hopefully they will continue to have (NHL players) in the Olympics but there is a lot of talk that this might be the last time."

And what does Modano think about making this team?

“It would mean a lot," he said. "It would be one of those great things that I could include in my hockey career in being part of four Olympics. Plus being honored to represent my country once again at this point of my career would be nice. Obviously Vancouver would be a great city for the Olympics and hockey in-general. It will be very exciting and I hope to be a part of it."

Modano threw out a ceremonial first pitch at the Chicago White Sox game on Tuesday night. This wasn't the first time he has tossed out the first ball at an Major League Baseball game but it's always fun.

“It went fine," Modano said. "It honestly was not much different than the other ones I've done in Texas. Obviously it's a different stadium, but the fans were great. There’s always a little bit of nerves when you go out there on the pitcher's mound but you just lob it in there. It was fun."

Modano was pleased with his conditioning for mid-August, with still a few weeks before Stars training camp. He admits there is still work to do, but he his preparation to this point has served him well.

“I felt better than I thought I would on the ice when we started moving around and skating," he said. "It's just a matter of doing things at a little faster pace. A few of us have been skating at home in Dallas and I was getting ready for this. Once you start moving and handling the puck and skating at the same time it all comes back pretty quickly. I feel like I am on pace to be ready for training camp in a few weeks."

Camp is just around the corner, starting on Sept. 13 in Frisco.

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