Modano joins fellow players Peter Forsberg, Dominik Hasek and Rob Blake and coach Pat Burns (builder category) and referee Bill McCreary (referee/linseman category) in this year’s class, which will be formally inducted November 17 in Toronto. Modano, Forsberg and Hasek will go in as first-ballot Hall of Famers.
“What an amazing phone call to get,” Modano said. “I am speechless, lost for words for what this has meant to me, to all of us, to get a call like this and to be recognized from same great individuals who have been involved in the game of hockey.”
The honors have been rolling in for Modano since he retired in 2011 after 22 seasons in the NHL, 21 with the Minnesota North Stars and Dallas Stars franchise. The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inducted him in the fall of 2012. The Stars retired his number 9 this past March.
Modano’s numbers over 1,499 NHL career games speak for themselves. He’s the all-time leader in both goals (561) and points (1,374) among U.S.-born players. He ranks 23rd all-time among NHL players in both goals and points.
Doug Armstrong, the current GM of the St. Louis Blues and former GM and assistant GM of the Stars, said Modano could have put up even better numbers during his career, but he committed to a two-way style of play to help the Stars win.
“He probably would have had three or four hundred more points had he played in a different system, but I think Mike is going to go down as maybe the best two-way player to ever play the game,” Armstrong said. “The way he had to play against the other team’s top players, but was still a necessity for him to produce offense for us. Mike was a great player.”
The Minnesota North Stars drafted Modano first overall in the 1988 NHL Draft out of Prince Albert of the Wester Hockey Hockey.
“We were looking for someone to bring people into the arena and get them out of their seat. We were hoping that player would be the face of our franchise and bring us a Stanley Cup,” Lou Nanne, the Minnesota GM made Modano the number one pick, once said of Modano. “Fortunately for us and then for Dallas, Mike Modano turned out to be that player.”
The Livonia, Michigan native was a magnificent skater whose jersey would flap in the wind when he hit top speed. And there were the shots – slap shot, wrist shot and one of the best backhands the game has ever seen.
“When you see the highlights of the goals this guy scored you remember what an unbelievable talent he was. Just the greatest,” said Stars president Jim Lites.
Modano would go on to be the Stars franchise leader in just about every offensive category. And he led the franchise to success. The North Stars made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 1991, losing to Pittsburgh. When the franchise relocated to Dallas in 1994 there was more success.
Modano helped lead the Stars to the Stanley Cup title in 1999. He registered 23 points (5 goals, 18 assists) in 23 games, ranking first in assists and second in points among all players in the playoffs that year. He ranked high in the toughness category as well.
Modano broke his wrist in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against Buffalo, but played through the injury. The toughness Modano showed in that series and the emotion he displayed when hoisting the Stanley Cup are etched in the memory of longtime teammate and linemate Jere Lehtinen.
“That last game and seeing how tough he was and then seeing after it how much it meant to him,” Lehtinen said. “It was an eye-opener for me to see his reaction, he had been in the league a long time, how much he wanted it and how much it meant to him.”
Modano would help lead the Stars back to the Stanley Cup Final in 2000, but they fell short against the New Jersey Devils. Modano would score his 343rd career goal that season, making him the Stars all-time franchise leader. More milestones followed.
Point number 868 came in February 2001, making him the Stars all-time points leader. He registered his 1,000th point in November 2002. His 500th goal came on March 13, 2007 and then four days later his 503rd, which made him the leading goal scorer among U.S.-born players. In November 2007 he became the all-time U.S.-born points leader when he hit the 1,233 mark.
He capped off his career with the Stars in memorable fashion. In his final game in Dallas as a Star, he scored the game-tying goal with 1:47 left in regulation and then tallied the deciding goal in the shootout as the Stars defeated the Anaheim Ducks, 3-2, at American Airlines Center.
"It was a special moment, to see those flashes of brilliance,” Stars goaltender Marty Turco said after that game. “That is as good as it gets.”
Modano played his final NHL season in Detroit in 2010-11 and then signed a one-day contract with Dallas in Septemer 2011 so that he could retire a Star.
Modano’s accomplishments went beyond what he did on the ice. He was the face of the Stars franchise and helped sell the sport to Texas and the Southwest when the Stars relocated to Dallas from Minnesota.
“He made us real because he had the capability, the personality, the looks and approach of a superstar, and he always carried himself that way,” said Lites. “Humble, but compelling. Confident, but not overconfident, not cocky. He knew what his role was and he did the right thing. He led us to a championship.”
Modano was named to the NHL Second All-Star team in 1999-00, the NHL All-Rookie Team in 1989-90 and was selected to play in the NHL All-Star game seven times. He had success on the international stage as well, helping the USA to victory at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and taking home a silver medal at the 2002 Olympics.
The Stars honored Modano for all those accomplishments March 8, raising his number 9 to the rafters at American Airlines Center in a memorable jersey retirement ceremony. That Brett Hull, Modano’s former Dallas and Team USA teammate said it was obvious what honor was next for number 9.
“He’s going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer,” Hull said. “If he’s not, take my stuff out. If he doesn’t deserve to be in there first ballot, no one does. Except for Gretzky I guess.”
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.