It was never a matter of if it was going to happen, just a matter of when. Now, we know the when. The Dallas Stars will retire Mike Modano’s number 9 on March 8, 2014. The team made it official at Tuesday night’s rebranding event at the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
“Just a lot of emotions and memories and things that have happened over the 25 years of being with this organization,” Modano said of the announcement. “Starting off as a teenager and going through a lot of ups and downs and things like that.”
There were a lot more ups than downs in Modano’s career. He played 21 seasons in the NHL, 20 of them with the Stars. He’s the franchise leader in just about every key category including games played (1,459), goals (557), assists (802) and points (1,359). He helped the Stars win the Stanley Cup in 1999.
"He's a Dallas Star. He's the first guy whose jersey is being retired because of what he did as a Dallas Star,” said Stars President and CEO Jim Lites. “People have asked me if there are others that might come from that team that won the Stanley Cup, and I think the answer to that question is ‘maybe.’ Mike Modano has never been a maybe. It's just been a question of (determining) when."
Modano’s jersey will be retired on a night when the Minnesota Wild will be playing the Stars, and it’s a fitting opponent. The Livonia, Michigan, native started his career when the Stars franchise was in Minnesota, a first overall selection of the Minnesota North Stars in the 1988 NHL Draft.
“I think it was between Detroit and Minnesota, and it just happened to be Minnesota, which I think is just as good as against the Wings. It started there,” Modano said of the opponent on his jersey retirement night. “I have obviously a lot of fond memories of my time there, but it’s something that we talked about toward the end of the season and then in the summer, when we could secure a date. So, it’s something on the calendar now, looking forward to it.”
Lites said this season has been the first opportunity to do the Modano jersey retirement ceremony the right way. Modano announced his retirement prior to the 2011-12 season, which saw the Stars undergo the ownership change and Tom Gaglardi took over. The lockout made things chaotic last season. This season, the timing is perfect.
“This was the first time we had an opportunity. We are not dragging our heels. It’s an opportune time,” Lites said. “We want to plan the events in advance. We want to do it right, the way the Red Wings did [Steve] Yzerman and the Rangers did [Mark] Messier. That’s going to be a huge event for us. Mike is very involved in planning it himself and Tom Gaglardi said whatever it takes to do it right, we’re going to do. It is going to be first class.”
A preliminary guest list is already in the works and an is expected to include teammates from Modano’s early days with the North Stars and, of course, the Dallas Stars’ 1999 Stanley Cup championship team and the team that went to the 2000 Stanley Cup Final. There are coaches, general managers on the list as well, along with some of Modano’s teammates from USA Hockey.
It’s sure to be an emotional night for Modano. Much like his retirement press conference and that magical night when he played his final game in Dallas as a Star, scoring a late game-tying goal and then tallying in the shootout as the Stars beat the Ducks at American Airlines Center.
“I think it’ll be just as tough. I think the press conference was tough, the last game, that one,” Modano said. “When you have to address people by yourself and you’ve got to say a lot of things in a short time and you’ve got to touch on a lot of things, memories and moments, it just kind of all hits you at once. It’s tough to prepare for. You try to visualize it or practice it beforehand, but nothing prepares you for that moment when you’ve got to get up there and kind of get all that out, get the right things said and obviously thank a lot of the right people.”
And it will also be an opportunity for fans to thank Modano for all the great memories and for the franchise to honor him for all he accomplished wearing that number 9, which will soon hang in the rafters at American Airlines Center.